Massey on  Shakspeare's Sonnets (11)

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    IT has now to be claimed for the present interpretation of Shakspeare's Sonnets that it corrects the errors of superficial research, and enables us to clear up the mystery of Thorpe's inscription; that it recovers for us the long-lost key wherewith Shakspeare unlocked his heart to his "private friends"; fathoms and unfolds the secret histories which have been a sealed book for two centuries and a half, and solves one of the most piquant if not important of literary problems; makes the life-spirit that once breathed in these fragments stir and knit them together again to become a living body of facts, shaped objectively in some near likeness to the form originally worn in Shakspeare's mind—a veritable presence before which all the phantom falsehoods must fade, and all such "exsufflicate and blown surmises" as have attainted the Sonnets and wronged their writer must ultimately pass away.

    It is no longer necessary to assume that the patchwork of Shakspeare's Sonnets is the variegated vesture of his own perplexing personality.  The present pleading is really an appeal to English common sense on behalf of our greatest Englishman, who was common sense personified at its loftiest.  This reading enables us to see how it is that Shakspeare can be at the same time the Friend who loves and is blessed, and the Lover who dotes and is disconsolate; how the great calm man of the sweetest blood, the smoothest temper, and most cheery soul can be quite contented with his lot, and yet appear to be the anxious, jealous, fretful wooer who has been pursued by the "slings and arrows of outrageous Fortune," and driven from his heart's home to drift about the world as a wanderer, who, in his weakness, has said and done things for which he prays forgiveness, and which in him are not hard to forgive, because he is a lover who has been much tried, and amidst all the shiftings of life and backslidings of fortune has been true at heart and steadfast in his love.  Here we can see how the Poet has been the Player still, in his "idle hours," and how he could personate a passion to the life, disguise his face past our recognition, and change the dramatic mash at will for the amusement of his "private friends": at one moment rendering the pretty petulance and tender reproaches of a jealous lady who grows desperate because she does not know the worst, but is fully inclined to think it; at another breathing all his heart into the protestations of a ranging lover who has been here and there, and whose love has appeared to be the slave of Time and the sport of wind and wave, and yet no distance could sever it from its true resting-place.  Then he can lay aside the mask and show his own face calm and noble, wearing a look of smiling cheer for his friend; or, if there be a shadow on it, this does not darken from within—comes from no selfish pang—no personal compunction of conscience—but only reflects that cloud which is passing over the fortunes of his "dear Boy."  Thus we may understand how he can be modest for himself and shrinking out of all notice, yet grow defiant and dazzling as a "mailed angel on a battle-day" when he is fighting for this friend, and the sword glitters, the shield glows, the valour mounts, and the trumpet rings.  These sounding promises and lofty boasts of immortality being only the echoes and reverberations in the upper air of the battle with Time and Fortune, and "all-oblivious Enmity," which is going on below.  Thus we may comprehend how Shakspeare can rejoice in this friend who is all the world to him, and, directly after, depict the feeling of forlorn friendlessness of that friend who is "in disgrace with Fortune and Men's eyes," and who looks on himself as an outcast, and wishes he were as those who have friends and sit within the warm and rosy inner circle of happiness; how the spirit, that in motion was at rest, can appear full of all unrest and disquietude; how the love that is such a still blessedness to the one can be to the other like the fabled thorn in the breast of the Nightingale which she presses and sings "sweet! sweet! sweet!" bleeding all the while she turns her sorrow into song; how one Sonnet can tell of the speaker's "well-contented day," and show that he has the richest of all possessions in his own self-possession, whilst its neighbouring plaint embodies a spirit that is perturbed and full of discontent—changeful as the spirit of April.  How he can write playfully on one side of the same theme, and be deeply, painfully in earnest on the other.  How he can assert his own steadfastness of unwavering affection, and with an almost monotonous iteration protest its unchangeableness now and for ever, whilst, at the same time, he continues the story: the quarrels, the flirtations, partings and greetings of a pair of lovers the course of whose love did not run smooth, but was full of ups and downs, tests and trials, leave-takings and makings-up.  And when he has done ample justice poetically to the character of the Earl, and "confessed" him with all his unfolded faults and penitent tears, he can, in his own person, give him absolution and, with the lustiest sense of his own liberty to do so, celebrate that "marriage of true minds" in Sonnet 116—assert emphatically the truth of the whole matter, and challenge all the world with the airest, cheeriest defiance to prove any error on him.  He writes playful, punning Sonnets for William Herbert, some big with burlesque, and some that paint a passion in fiery hues, but showing that he presides over his own work; gives his own summing-up and last word, we hear his real self, speaking out finally in characterization of the subject, with a judicial solemnity of tone which goes farthest, sinks deepest, and tells us plainly enough when his own spirit touches us to call our attention so that we may look and see his own thought and understand his words.

    This reading alone permits us to see how the speaker in the Latter Sonnets can be represented as a youth in pursuit of a woman old enough to play the part of mother; how the lady can be described as Age in love, and why her age, about which she told her lies, should have been afterwards suppressed; why her "amber hair for foul" was "darkly quoted," and why Sidney's Sonnets are echoed or replied to point by point, and feature by feature, because the lady is the same through every change of character.

    When once we grasp the fact that many of the Sonnets are composed upon given subjects, we can see how Sidney's Sonnet on Age in love would become suggestive and be utilized.

"Let not Old Age disgrace my high desire,
 O heavenly soul, in human shape contained;
 Old wood inflamed doth yield the bravest fire,
 When younger doth in smoke his virtue spend:
 Nor let white hairs, which on my face do grow,
 Seem to your eyes of a disgraceful hue,
 Since whiteness doth present the sweetest show,
 Which makes all eyes do homage unto you:
 Old age is wise, and full of constant truth;
 Old age well stayed from ranging humour lives;
 Old age hath known whatever was in youth;
 Old age o'ercome, the greater honour gives:
     And to old age since you yourself aspire,
     Let not old age disgrace my high desire."

    Age in love being the theme, we can see how the matter would assume a humorous aspect as the subject of Sonnet 138, with Herbert for speaker in place of Basilius, where the lady aimed at was so much the elder.  Of the one lady be-sonnetted we may say with Lear, "Her eyes are fierce;"  but the eyes of Elizabeth Vernon "do comfort and not burn;" of the one series of Sonnets that they have an unhallowed glow, of the other that it wears the white halo of purity.

    All the secret from beginning to end lies in the simple fact that the "sweet swan of Avon," like Wordsworth's swan upon St. Mary's Lake—

"Floats DOUBLE, swan and shadow,"

in writing those Sonnets that are dramatic.  No other theory can pretend to reconcile the conflicting differences and prickly points of opposition with which the Sonnets have so bristled all over that many persons, seeing the host of difficulties, have shut their eyes and closed the book.  This alone takes the Sonnets almost as they stand; tells their various stories, identifies the different characters; matches these with their expression; calls them by the name to which they answer; proves many of the inner facts by events, and dates, and illustrations from the outer life of the persons and the historic surroundings of the period.  It shows that many of these Sonnets are shaped by the spirit of the age; how they wear its "form and pressure," and have its circumstances figured in their imagery.  It tells us how the things here written were once lived by Shakspeare and his friends. It shows us the concealed half of the Man, the other side of the luminary, and does more than anything hitherto accomplished to connect him with the life of his time; makes him touch earth again; brings him back to us in his habit and affection as he lived.  It is the most authentic revelation ever given of his own inner life, for some twelve years of his sojourn on this earth; affords the most private peep into the sanctuary of his soul that was kept so closely curtained to the gaze of his contemporaries, and tells us more about his own self than all that has been gathered of him since the day of his death.  By its help we may enter the early garden of his dramatic mind—the very site whereof seemed lost—and trace certain roots of his nature; see how they first put forth their feelers to take hold of that human world which they were to ramify through and through, and embrace all round.  Also the present reading of the Sonnets throws the only light upon Shakspeare's words to Southampton, "What I have to do is yours; being part in all I have devoted yours," and gives the only localization to the fact of Herbert's personal familiarity with Shakspeare recorded by the players in the dedication of the first folio.

    Hitherto half the matter and all the most precious part of the meaning have been lost sight of.  We have missed the points that touch life the nearest, and the traits that bring us the closest to Shakspeare.  The light of nature has been put out, and the Sonnets have lacked the living glow.  We have been cheated by impoverishing impositions.  The images that are figured facts coloured from the life, have hitherto been mere phantoms, making a dumb show of poetry.  But once we can see and believe that our Poet is dealing with realities, the rekindled light illumines everything.  The Sonnets are all astir with a more vital existence.  The wayside common-places flower again; the world of fancy grows fruitful; a new soul has come into the Sonnets!  They gain immensely in beauty, gravity, and fitness to subject, when we have reached their underlying realities, and are wondrously enriched when ranged in contrast and set jewel-like, "each other's beams to share," wearing the diverse colours of their various characteristics.  All their poetic qualities are enhanced by our getting at the right relationship of persons.  Truth is ever the eternal basis of the highest beauty, and as we reach the truth here the meaning deepens indefinitely, the poetry brightens in a loftier light.  The solemn thought is more sagely fine, the tenderness more pathetic, the feeling more significant, the fancy more felicitous, the strength more potent, the sweetness more virginal, the illustration more appropriate.  We are no longer hindered in our enjoyment of the divinely dainty love-poetry, that could only have been offered to a woman, by the feeling that makes Englishmen "scunner" to see two men kiss each other, or hear them woo one another in amorous words.

    We can now see that these Sonnets transcend all others as much as his plays are above those of his contemporaries.  "Shakspeare's divine Sonnets," they were nobly named by Elizabeth Barrett Browning; but how intensely human they are, how exquisitely natural, could not be known till now, when, for the first time, the real heart-beat of them may be felt.  And by as much as they grow in meaning, in vivid life, in morality, does their writer gain in manliness.  Hitherto they have been read in sad uncertainty of Shakspeare's drift, or with sadder certainty of his moral delinquency.  For the first time we can read them without fear or trembling lest some apparition of the Poet's guilt should rise up vast and shadowy, and as we might try to stammer excusingly, much larger than life.  We can now sit down to their banquet of beauty without being nervously apprehensive about the ghost rising.  We may see that the most passionate of the Sonnets are not necessarily the travail of his own soul and sweat-drops of his own agony; all the more perplexing to us, because he had apparently put himself and us to the torture when there was no need.  We can breathe more freely, feel a little calmer, when we do comprehend that he did not crucify himself for the whole world to see his shame; did not make all the poetic capital possible out of his friend; and, having handed him over to his enemies, hang himself publicly, Judas-like, in a fit of repentance.  And we shall soon feel that it is not so very marvellous a thing that the most dramatic of poets should have at times employed the dramatic method in his Sonnets.  Especially when his subject was real life—the life and the loves of those who were so dear to him—in singing of which some disguise was demanded by the nature of the case, the marked position of his friends.

    The Sonnets have had many readers who felt there was much more in them than had yet been found, and who would have been only too glad if they could have got to the root of the matter by means of such a theory as is now propounded.  Charles Lamb, for instance.  He was a reader of the Sonnets.  One who would have brooded over them till his heart ran over in the quaintest babblement of loving words, if he might only have grasped the revelation that flashed out of them by evanescent gleams, and left the darkness more bewildering than ever.  But to catch the Protean sprit, and hold it, and compel it to declare itself in a recognizable shape, was as tantalizing and provoking a task as trying to arrest the reflection of a face in water all in motion, with the sunbeams dancing on it, and the eyes completely dazzled.  This will explain why the Sonnets have had so few commentators, when the other works of Shakspeare have collected such a host.  The wisest readers have been content to rest with Mr. Dyce in his declaration, that after repeated perusals, he was convinced that the greater number of them were composed in an assumed character, on different subjects, and at different times, for the amusement, and probably at the suggestion of the author's intimate associates.  And having cracked the nut we find this to be the very kernel of it; only my theory unmasks the characters assumed, unfolds the nature of the various subjects, traces the different times at which they were composed, and identifies those intimate associates of Shakspeare who supplied both suggestion and subjects for his Sonnets.  It brings us, like the Prince in search of his Sleeping Beauty, to the inmost nook of Shakspeare's poetry; the magic hermitage to which the invention of Southampton "gave light," and which was locked up and the key given to Herbert or pocketed by him, nearly three centuries ago.  We shall find everything as the Poet left it, for the place is sacred from the touch of Time.  The friends and lovers are here pictured as in life, wearing the dresses they wore of old, and looking for us as they looked in the eyes of each other.  As we break the stillness the life seems to begin again, the colour comes back to the faces, and the sound of breathing is heard in the charmed chamber of imagery which has been sealed in silence for so long.  We have come secretly into the presence of Shakspeare himself.  Does he resent this intrusion?  Do the smiling brows darken at our coming?  I trust not, I think not.  If I have rightly interpreted the feeling of our Poet for his friend Southampton, he would willingly reach a hand from his high place to put this wreath upon the rightful brow.  So fully did he once mean to set a crown of immortal flowers where Fortune had bound her thorns, only he was hindered by one of those complications of life that perplex human nature, with circumstances absurdly insufficient, and so often foil intention, and drag dawn the lifted hand.

    In reviewing my early work, some of the critics professed their readiness to throw up the Personal Theory, and to admit that the reason why certain of the Sonnets—those filled with particular facts which cannot be made personal to the life and character of Shakspeare—were the most real might be because such Sonnets were dramatic, and not to be understood unless we could get them once more related to the characters intended by Shakspeare.  They professed to sympathize seriously with my indignation against the Personal Interpretation.  They willingly admitted that I had for ever destroyed the Autobiographic hypothesis of the Sonnets by demonstrating their dramatic nature in many instances; and yet they could wantonly cast discredit on my particular dramatic interpretation whilst admitting the necessity of it, and having nothing to put in the place of this historical identification.  They preferred the drama that was a poetized Ideal to this which is human and real, and can be once more related to the lives of Shakspeare's friends, and circumstantially verified by the records of his time.  There is a current literary tendency in favour of preferring the shadow to the substance, the phantom to the fact, cloud-land to solid earth.  This, however, is unfortunate when we have to do, not with a Shelley, let us say, but with Shakspeare.

    I have previously suggested that in personally vouching for the purity of his Sonnets as attested by Benson, their second editor, Shakspeare was virtually repudiating the Autobiographical Interpretation.  If we had the details of his defence and explanation, we should doubtless learn directly from him that certain of the Sonnets were written dramatically, as now demonstrated, for the "Private Friends," Southampton and Herbert, but that all was changed in appearance by the unwarranted way in which they were smuggled into print.  The loss of the dramatic clue made them look entirely personal to the writer, and that which had been only accounted poetic play appeared to be passion in real earnest.  This was what Shakspeare HAD to deny—as proved from what he derived from Sidney—and therefore this was what he did deny, as known and testified to by Benson.

    The facts in favour of my rendering of the Southampton Sonnets are these.  In the first instance, Shakspeare was, of all poets, the least autobiographic, the most dramatic.  Next, when he has addressed a number of Personal Sonnets to his friend, he, in allusion to the monotony of his method, says (Sonnet 38) that he cannot be wanting in freshness of matter and novelty of subject whilst the Earl lives to pour into his verse his "own sweet argument."   Then, in the dedication to Lucrece, the Poet tells his patron that what he has done and what he has yet to do is the Earl's, for he is a part in all that Shakspeare has devoted to him.  And if Shakspeare was then speaking of the Sonnets as devoted to Southampton, he could not have meant more fugitive Sonnets, or Sonnets in any way devoted to himself, but such as were devoted to Southampton's affairs.  Only in Sonnets written dramatically or vicariously can we possibly find the meeting-place of Sonnet 38 and the words of the dedication.  Starting from this point—Shakspeare's own statement of two facts that blend in one meaning—I proceed to identify the various "arguments" supplied by Southampton, his private courtship and public career, possibly also by Elizabeth Vernon, for Shakspeare to shape into Sonnets, and I find the Sonnets to be full of obvious facts that fit perfectly into my theory, and no other; facts quite as palpable as the identification of Marlowe or the release of Southampton from the Tower in 1603.  By the door opened in Sonnet 38, we can enter the interior of the Sonnets, where alone the imagery on the windows can be traced, and we do literally identify fact after fact of the Southampton series, and prove them from the life of Southampton, who is the man that Sonnet 38 says is to supply his own subject matter and give light to the Poet's invention.  This is not a subjective theory so intangible as not to be grasped; it is based on plain objective facts, with which the Sonnets abound—such facts as Southampton's travels abroad, his quarrels at Court, his courting of Mistress Vernon with "too much familiarity," and his marriage.  In Sonnets 123-4-5 the Earl as surely speaks to his wife from the Tower as he is greeted in Sonnet 107 upon his release.  All through the Southampton series my reading is illustrated and enforced in a treble manner, because the personal and impersonal Sonnets deal with the same set of facts, and both are corroborated by the facts of his life and character.

    The present demonstration that the "Latter Sonnets" are also dramatic may perhaps be left to speak for itself.  And yet much more might have been said in making out the comparison; for Shakspeare's antithetical treatment involved very cunning ways of working in consequence of the change in Stella after Sidney's death.  Here, for instance, is an illustration which should have been emphasized—


O, from what power hast thou this powerful
With insufficiency my heart to sway?
To make me give the lie to my true sight,
And swear that brightness doth not grace the
Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
That in the very refuse of thy deeds
There is such strength and warrantise of skill,
That, in my mind, thy worst all best exceeds?
Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,
The more I hear and see just cause of hate?
O, though I love what others do abhor,
With others thou should'st not abhor my state!
    If thy unworthiness raised love in me,
    More worthy I to be beloved of thee.    (Sonnet 150)

Since so mine eyes are subject to your sight,
That in your sight they fixèd have my brain;
Since so my heart is fillèd with that light,
That only light doth all my life maintain;
Since in sweet you all goods so richly reign,
That where you are, no wishèd good can want;
Since so your living image lives in me,
That in my self your self true love doth plant:
    How can you him unworthy then decree,
    In whose chief part your worths implanted
            be?    (Arcadia, 102-3)


In each the theme is that of "reasons for being loved."  In the one case it is on account of the lover's reflecting or enshrining all her "worths," all her worthiness; in the other the plea is exactly reversed.  Her magic power over the sight is the same in both, but here the effect is produced by the woman's unworthiness!  The last two lines of each set will prove my point—


If thy unworthiness raised love in me,
More worthy I to be beloved of Thee!

How can you him unworthy then decree,
In whose chief part your worths implanted be?


    The plea in Shakspeare's Sonnet is so unbearably pitiful that one is glad to show its relation to a given subject versus the unworthy Object of supposed personal passion.  Also, with the lady of the Latter Sonnets considered as subject rather than object, we may see how the speaker can confess that he is betrayed by her image into sinning with others, and tell her that in straying elsewhere he does it in pursuit of her.  Subject versus object makes all the difference in reading the Latter Sonnets!  Thus the address to the soul and other themes, like that of lust, come in as "subjects" of  Sonnets.

    When Shakspeare published his poem of Venus and Adonis, he called it the first Heir of his invention.  In Sonnet 38 he shows us what he did not consider to be the Heir of his own invention—

"How can my Muse want subject to invent,
 While Thou dost breathe, that pour'st into my verse
 Thine own sweet argument, too excellent
 For every vulgar paper to rehearse?
 O, give thyself the thanks, if aught in me
 Worthy perusal stand against thy sight;
 For who's so dumb that cannot write to thee,
 When thou thyself dost give Invention light?
E THOU the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth
 Than those old Nine which rhymers invocate;
 And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth
 Eternal numbers to outlive long date!
     If my slight Muse do please these curious days
     The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise."

    In this Sonnet Shakspeare tells us that certain of his Sonnets were suggested by the friend who pours into the Poet's verse his "own sweet argument."  This might also apply to the earliest Sonnets, but with the 38th there is a marked change in the mode of writing.  The Friend has now become the Tenth Muse.  As such he "gives Invention light." He supplies the subject-matter instead of the Poet's own imagination, which had hitherto sufficed.  Southampton is addressed as the inventor and real author of Sonnets now to be written.

"O give thyself the thanks, if aught in me
 Worthy perusal stand against thy sight;
 For who's so dumb that cannot write to thee,
 When thou Thyself dost give invention light?"

This Sonnet, as previously argued and evidenced, marks the moment of change from the Personal to the Dramatic Sonnets.

    Not only is there a new departure in Southampton's supplying his own argument for the entertainment of his mistress, Elizabeth Vernon, there is to be a change in the mode of writing down the Sonnets devoted to Southampton's courtship.  Common paper is not good enough for them!  The new argument is too secret and precious for "every vulgar paper to rehearse."  The Poet was writing on paper in Sonnet 17, where he speaks of the papers becoming "yellowed with their age."  But now the friend not only supplies his own sweet argument for the Poet to turn into Sonnets, he also furnishes the table-book or album in which they are to be written, where they will stand against his sight, and serve for the delight of the "Private Friends."  Hence the Poet says—

"If my slight Muse do please these curious days,
 The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise."

Now, if we study Sonnet 77 we may see how a large number of the Sonnets were written for Southampton.

"Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear,
 Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste;
 The vacant leaves thy mind's imprint will bear,
 And of this book this learning mayst thou taste:
 The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show,
 Of mouthèd graves will give thee memory;
 Thou by thy dial's shady stealth mayst know
 Time's thievish progress to eternity:
 Look, what thy memory cannot contain,
 Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find
 Those children nursed, deliver'd from thy brain,
 To take a new acquaintance of thy mind:
     These offices, so aft as thou wilt look,
     Shall profit thee, and much enrich thy book."

    Hitherto the commentators have assumed that Shakspeare's friend had presented him with a Table-book!  But the Sonnet is not composed either on receiving or making a gift; no such motive or stand-point can possibly be found in it.  The subject is the old one of warring against Time, and the writer is at the moment writing in a book from which he draws one of a series of reflections in illustration of his thought.  The mirror, he says, will tell the Earl how his "beauties wear"; and the dial will show him Time's stealthy progress to eternity.  "This book" will also teach its lesson.  Its vacant leaves will take the mind's imprint; and he advises his friend to write down his own thoughts in these "waste blanks," that they may be a living memory of the past, one day—just as the mirror is a reflector to-day.  If he will do this, the habit—"these offices"—will profit him mentally, and much enrich his book.

    Evidently this is a book for writing in, and as evidently Shakspeare is then writing in it; also it belongs to the friend addressed.  Moreover, it has "vacant leaves"—"waste blanks"; therefore it has pages that have been filled.  And to the contents of these written pages the Poet alludes—"Of this book this learning may'st thou taste;" that is, the Earl will find in it other illustrations of the writer's present theme, which is youth's transiency and life's fleetness.  This book, then, has been enriched by the Poet's writing; but if Southampton will take the pen in hand, and also write in the book, it will become much richer than it is now.  "This book" shows that it is in Shakspeare's hand, but it does not belong to him.  "Thy book" proves that it is the Earl's.  In this book, I doubt not, many of the Southampton Sonnets were written, just as contributions may be made to an album, and in this particular Sonnet we find the Poet actually writing in it.  Two Sonnets earlier in the same group (p. 155) the Poet speaks of the lines he is then writing—

"Which for memorial still with thee shall stay."

He means them to remain with his friend as the "better part" of himself, the "very part was consecrate to thee."  When he is dead and gone they are to represent him spiritually.  Sonnet 77 identifies this Book of the Sonnets then as Southampton's own property.

    Now in Sonnet 122 there is a grievance on account of the speaker's having parted with a book, and here he makes his most complimentary excuse and defence for having done so.

Thy gift, Thy tables, are within my brain,
Full character'd 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;
Till each to razed oblivion yield his part
Of thee, thy record never can be miss'd.
That poor Retention could not so much hold,
Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score;
Therefore to give them from me was I bold,
To trust those tables that receive thee more:
    To keep an adjunct to remember thee,
    Were to import forgetfulness in me. (122)

    Malone, who has been servilely followed by the Echoes, says—That poor retention is the table-book given to him by his friend."  But the book spoken of in Sonnet 77 is not Shakspeare's.  It belongs to the person addressed.  The speaker is writing in it, and he asks the Earl to commit his own thoughts to the waste blanks, the vacant leaves, of this book, which he calls "thy book," just as he says "thy glass," and "thy dial."  So that it is impossible for the Earl's book of Sonnet 77 to be given away by Shakspeare in Sonnet 122.  Here we need the dramatic interpretation.  Here the speaker is the man who has given away the book that belonged to him—the book in which Shakspeare was previously writing the Sonnets for which Southampton had supplied the subject matter of his own sweet argument.  According to the present reading, the Earl of Southampton addresses his lady, Elizabeth Vernon, in Sonnet 122; he is the culprit who has given away the book, and he now replies to an expostulation on the subject.  In the first place, the book was given to him by his mistress—"Thy Gift"; and in the second place, it has been used as a record of her, for the purpose of scoring and keeping count as it were of his love for her, hence the comparison with the "tallies" which were used for scoring accounts.

    This book, the lady's gift, her tablets, given to the speaker by the person addressed, and used as the record of his love, the retainer of her image, has been parted with, and perhaps the lady thought this had been done foolishly.  Anyway it is one of the grievances acknowledged by the erring but penitent lover, who defends himself as best he can with the aid of Shakspeare's pen.  He confesses that he has given away her book of the Sonnets, but insists that her true Tables are in his brain!  Her real and permanent record remains there eternally, a writing never to be effaced, a gift that cannot be parted from.  Ah, no!  The gift of gifts was herself, not her gift-book, and the true tables are not that dead letter of his love, but his living brain.  That "poor retention" could not hold his love for her, nor does he need "tallies," her "dear love to score," therefore he made bold to give away the book, the tallies which contained his love-reckonings, the memorandum-book which retained her, as is cunningly suggested, on purpose to trust his memory and mental record all the more.  If he had kept such a thing to remind him of her, it would have been a kind of reproach to himself, as it would charge him with being forgetful, so he has just dispensed with this artificial memory, and henceforth will depend on his natural one alone!  Besides, it was utterly incapable of holding his large love for her!

    This book must have been something very special for a Sonnet to be written on the subject of its having been given away.  The purpose to which it had been devoted was likewise as choice and particular.  Shakspeare was not in the least likely to fill a book with Sonnets about the Earl and then give it away, when they had been written for the Earl, nor did he keep "tallies" to score the Earl's dear love on his own account.  Southampton had the book in his keeping, for what the Poet wrote in it, says Sonnet 38, was to stand in the sight of his friend, and remain with him.  Thus in Sonnet 38 we see that Shakspeare is beginning to write in the book, which in Sonnet 77 he is positively writing in; and that in Sonnet 122 this same book has been given away by the Earl of Southampton.  In Sonnet 38 it was to be devoted to the Earl's love, and in Sonnet 122 it has been devoted to the celebration of his love for Elizabeth Vernon.

    This book, then, in which Shakspeare wrote Sonnet 77, and which has been given away by the Earl in Sonnet 122, must, Southampton being the speaker, have been the record of his love written, the tally that was kept by Shakspeare, the "poor retention" of Elizabeth Vernon's beauty and goodness and truth in love which the Poet had held up so steadily in view of his friend, by means of the dramatic Sonnets written in it!  The lady had felt exceedingly annoyed that he should have held her gift and its contents so lightly, and this Sonnet was written to soothe her all it could.

    It may have been a table-book, such as were then in use, elegantly bound for a dainty hand.  Aubrey, speaking of Sir Philip Sidney, says, "My great uncle, Mr. T. Browne, remembered him; and said that he was wont to take his tablebook out of his pocket and write down his notions as they came into his head, when he was writing his Arcadia, as he was hunting on our pleasant plains." [90]   "Thy gift—thy tables," however, does not necessarily mean thy table-book, and it also implies more than that.  What the gift was has to be inferred from its use and by comparison.  "Thy Tables" signifies the most sensitive receiver of her true impression.  Shakspeare is writing in his inclusive and, we may add, infusive way; he speaks of two things, and the larger contains the lesser; he means the gift-book which contained the lady's tables.  Table being the ancient term for a picture, Shakspeare uses it in the pictorial, rather than in the notebook sense.  This book, which was the lady's gift, contained pictures of her, charactered by the Pen.  The Earl has parted with the book, but he says her tables, not her book, are within his brain, her truest picture-place, not to be parted with and never to be effaced.

    Still, there was a book in which the dramatic Sonnets were to be written (Sonnet 38).  Shakspeare is writing in it, and invites the Earl likewise to write in it (Sonnet 77); it was presented by his mistress to the Earl, who has parted with it, and got into trouble over the transaction (Sonnet 132).

    Now, the first cause why Shakspeare's Sonnets came into the world in so mysterious a manner may be legitimately assumed to have originated in this fact, that the Earl had given them away, as shown by the complaint denoted and the excuses made in Sonnet 122.  I have further to suggest that the likeliest person to "obtain" the Southampton Sonnets was William Herbert, whom we know to have been a personal friend of the Earl's soon after he came to London in 1598, and that this was one cause why the whole collection was dedicated to him by Thorpe as the "onlie Begetter."

    It is no longer possible to stand outside the Sonnets and discuss the inscription by Thorpe on the condition that the Sonnets themselves are never to be understood.  No making out of the "Mr. W. H." could be satisfactory which left all the rest of the difficulties in outer darkness.  My reading of the Sonnets and interpretation of the dedication go together.  They throw light on each Other; and this we have a right to demand from any grapple with the subject.  There is no warrant whatever in the nature of the whole case—other than the initials of his name—for introducing "William Hathaway" either as "getter" or "begetter."  Shakspeare could not have delegated to him the dedication of his own warm love for Southampton and the fulfilment of his promise made in 1594.  And how should Southampton give up his secret-telling sybilline leaves to such a double nobody as William Hathaway?  William Herbert was a somebody; the only man of sufficient importance to take Shakspeare's place.  And there is proof extant that Thorpe had dedicatory dealings with Herbert in the fact that the folio translation of Augustine's De Civitatis Dei, published in 1610, is inscribed to the "Honourable Patron of Muses and Good Minds, Lord William, Earl of Pembroke."  Here, as with the Sonnets, it is another man's work that Thorpe inscribes to the Earl, and in doing so uses the cipher "Th. Th." instead of his full name.

    Herbert was a friend of the Poet's, who felt and had sufficient interest to collect the Sonnets; sufficient motive to have his title concealed in the inscription; sufficient power to protect Thorpe in carrying out publicly the plan that he was privy to.  Thorpe would not have dared to print another man's work without some warrant.  So early as 1592 Shakspeare was of sufficient account to make Chettle apologize very courteously for words that had been uttered by another man for whom he had published a posthumous tract.  Also we learn from Heywood that Shakspeare was much offended with Jaggard, who in 1599 pirated some pieces, including two of these Sonnets, and took liberties with the Poet's name—in fact, made it look as though the Poet had violated the secrecy of his private friends, and given the two Sonnets to the press.  Shakspeare's annoyance was so marked and manifested so strongly on that occasion that Jaggard took care to cancel his original title-page in a subsequent edition.

    If I had gone no deeper than the inscription, the merest surface of this subject, I might have suggested as "getter" of the Sonnets for Thorpe a more likely candidate for the ownership of the "W. H." than "William Hathaway," viz. Sir "William Hervey," third husband of Southampton's mother.  But the problem was not to be solved so.  That Thorpe had no warrant from Shakspeare through Hathaway or any other way, is certain, or he would have said so.  It was Herbert who warranted Thorpe, and this Thorpe lets us know, and so we hear no word of the Poet's anger with the publisher this time.

    We are able to deal with the inscription written by Thomas Thorpe, and bring it within the domain of positive facts, instead of leaving its meaning to remain any longer a matter of opinion.  It is not without a touch of satisfaction that I place Thorpe after the Sonnets for the first time!  Whilst standing full in front of them, darkening the doorway, and almost shutting Shakspeare out of sight, he has given me a great deal of trouble.  So completely has this inscription on the outside been interposed betwixt us and the Poet's own writing, that the only aim of the efforts hitherto made to decipher the secret history of the Sonnets does but amount to an attempt at discovering a man who should be young in years, handsome in person, loose in character; the initials of whose name must be "W. H."  The discoverers being quite ignorant at the outset of their enterprise as to what Thorpe himself knew of the Sonnets, what he really meant by his "onlie begetter," and liable, after all, to be met with the fatal fact that he used the word "begetter" in its more remote, its original sense, and thus inscribed the Sonnet's, with his best wishes, to the person who might be legitimately called the "only obtainer" of them for him to print.

    Thus the misinterpreters of Thorpe's Inscription have got into a similar predicament, and been the victims of a like delusion to that of Matilda in Spenser's Faery Queen (B. VI, c. iv. 32).  There was a prophecy that a son should be gotten to her lord.  The lady naturally thought the oracle meant she should bear a child, whereas it was only intended to signify that she was to obtain one and adopt it as her own.  It said, there should to him a son be gotten, not BEGOTTEN, precisely as the Sonnets were got for Thorpe by Mr. W. IL, not begotten by him as "Sole Inspirer" of Shakspeare; but she mistook the sense of the word gotten, and was greatly disappointed.

    If Shakspeare had inscribed the Sonnets to their Only Begetter the word could have had but one meaning, viz. the only Inspirer.  But they are dedicated to Thorpe's only Begetter, not Shakspeare's, the one man who had the power to get or obtain them for the publisher.

    Some of the earlier commentators, as Chalmers and Boswell, suggested that by his "only begetter," Thorpe might have meant the "only obtainer," the only person who, so far as Thorpe was concerned, had power to procure the Sonnets for him to publish.  And this is the original signification of the word.  "Beget" is derived by Skinner from the Anglo-Saxon begettan or begyten—"obtinere."  The Glossary to Thorpe's Analecta Anglo-Saxonica renders "begytan" to beget—obtain.  Johnson derives "beget" from the Anglo-Saxon "begettan," to obtain.  An Anglo-Saxon Glossary of Latin words, apparently of the ninth century, [91] renders "Adquiri," beon be-gyten.  In the Proverbs of King Alfred, we find the word "beget" used for obtain.  "Thus quoth Alfred: If thou a friend bi-gete," i.e. if you be-get or get a friend.  In Chaucer we have "getten" for obtained with the "y" as prefix, "y-getten."  Thus the original sense of the word beget was possessive, not creative!  It is so used by Dekkar in his Satiromastix, which was printed seven years before the Sonnets. He writes—"I have some cousin-germans at court shall beget you (that is, obtain for you) the reversion of the Master of the King's Revels."

    And now it becomes apparent that this was the sense in which Thorpe inscribed the Sonnets to his "Onlie Begetter."  Still, in whichever sense we take the words "Only Begetter," the Sonnets were falsely inscribed.  If we read the "Only Inspirer," the dedication is false on the face of it.  If we read the "Only Obtainer" of the Sonnets for printing, then the suggestion that W. H. was the one man whom the Poet meant to make immortal is false on the back of it.  There is no promise of immortality nor syllable of love for any male friend in the Latter or Herbert Series of the Sonnets.  And I am forced to conclude that the Southampton Sonnets were not come by honestly for publication, but that they were sneaked into print by "Mr. W. H." along with his own series; that they were virtually filched from their privacy; and in being printed with an inscription which gave a seeming unity and oneness to both series, the Sonnets of Shakspeare were made to look like the Sonnets of Master Will Herbert, who had then become Earl of Pembroke.  Shakspeare has not personally authorized the printing of his Sonnets, therefore we may conclude that he did not do so, else he would have said so; or Thorpe would have spoken for him.  It is certain that the author did not superintend the printing; and again, the absence of Shakspeare as corrector of the press implies the absence of his sanction to the publication; he who had been so careful in correcting his two poems.  Yet Thorpe would not have dared to print the Sonnets belonging to Shakspeare's "Private Friends" without some safe warrant for himself as "Adventurer."

    It was somebody's concern that the Sonnets should not be dedicated in full to the Earl of Pembroke.  That was not Thorpe's.  His interest lay in having them so dedicated, if it had not been prohibited, because that would have promoted the sale.  The dedication saddles the responsibility on the right person.  It was Mr. W. H. who had power to obtain the Sonnets, and who was the only obtainer.  He was the only person who had need of the cipher, or who had anything to conceal; the only person who could warrant or safeguard Thorpe in an underhand mode of publication.  They were published surreptitiously without the author's sanction or approval, because Herbert was only the "Obtainer" for Thorpe.  And we now see that all the mystery of the enigma depends upon Herbert's not being the Only Inspirer of the Sonnets.

    Thus Thorpe inscribed them to "Mr. W. H." as the only getter, or, as he chose affectedly to say, "only be-getter" of them for publishing purposes.  In doing this he tries to add something complimentary, and likes to show that he has read the Sonnets, so he wishes "Mr. W. H." all happiness and eternal life, connecting the latter idea with Shakspeare's promises of immortality, which has made the dedication look as if it meant that W. H. was the sole inspirer of Shakspeare's Sonnets, and is consequently read in that sense by the Herbertists.  I have suggested that there may be an allusion in the Merry Wives of Windsor to the surreptitious printing of the two Sonnets in the Passionate Pilgrim (1599), and I think the writer uttered a true prophecy regarding Herbert when he said—"He will print them out of doubt, for he cares not what he puts in the press;" and this unconscious prophecy I take to have been consciously fulfilled by Herbert when he put the Sonnets into print in 1609.

    Doubtless he was ambitious for these poetic exercises of Shakspeare to be looked upon as the "Earl of Pembroke's Sonnets," just as Sidney's work was known by name as "The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia."  The Latter Sonnets had been written for him at his own request, and upon subjects suggested by himself.  Whether his passion for the Dark Lady be looked upon as real or pretended, whether for Lady Rich or Mary Fytton, we have  found a motive and a literary initiative in Sidney's own treatment of Stella.  We have seen the Latter Sonnets continuing on the earlier track with Shakspeare following Sidney in both series.  In giving the whole of them the look of unity the parallel would be perfected, and with an "Only Begetter" who was "Mr. W. H." they would become the Sonnets of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, for all who might identify the initials, but could not penetrate below the surface or read the riddle of Thorpe's Inscription.  It must be clear to everyone that Ben Jonson, for example, did identify the Earl of Pembroke as the "Mr. W. H." to whom the book of Sonnets was inscribed!  And Herbert must have known that it would mislead; therefore in permitting it to appear he intended it to mislead, or took no precaution and made no protest against its misleading.  If it caused the reader to conclude that Master William Herbert was the Only Inspirer of the Sonnets, the one dear and only friend of the Poet from first to last, which has ensued, and inevitably so, that was the falsification of facts intended or allowed, and for that Master W. H. must be held responsible unless he did not see the Inscription before the Sonnets were printed, which is more than doubtful.  Shakspeare's already famous Sonnets could not have appeared in print, unauthorized by himself, with so enigmatical an Inscription by Thorpe, without attracting particular attention from the literary men of the time.  They were probably in the mind's eye of Drayton when he wrote these lines—

"For such whose poems be they ne'er so rare,
 In private chambers that encloistered are,
 And by transcription daintily must go
 As though the world unworthy were to know,
 Their rich composeres, let those men who keep
 These wondrous relics in their judgement deep,
 And cry them up so, let such pieces be
 Spoke of by those that shall come after me."

Therefore we may look for some allusions to be made when they came into the world, and were publicly named as Shakspeare's, with only Thorpe to stand sponsor, and Master W. H, standing by in the concealing shade.  The transaction must have been considerably talked about; and if my account of the way in which the Sonnets were given to the press be correct, there ought surely to be some sort of contemporary evidence in corroboration of the fact.  Easy-going as Shakspeare may have appeared, he could hardly help being annoyed, I think, at the liberties taken with his poetry and his name, even though this were done or permitted by an Earl who "prosecuted" him with so much favour.  It must have happened that he spoke out on the subject pretty freely to some poet-friend or other.  Ben Jonson, one may infer, would hear something of it.  To be sure, Shakspeare in 1609 was living at Stratford, almost withdrawn from the old London haunts, thus leaving the way clear for Herbert and Thorpe.

    Now, about that time, or a little earlier, George Wither had come to London to try and push his fortunes at Court.  Not succeeding in a hurry, he resolved to turn satirist.  He was very young, and just in his eager first love of literature, with ears hungry for any poetic gossip going, and may have got at the facts as nearly as an outsider could; especially as he printed two dedicatory sonnets, one to the Earl of Southampton, the other to the Earl of Pembroke.  Anyway, his volume of satirical poems is satirically inscribed to himself thus: "G. W. wisheth himself all happiness;" which is obviously a parody of Thorpe's fantastic inscription.  But is there no more intended than a parody of form?  Does not the satire lurk in the "wisheth himself all happiness"?  Thorpe did not wish himself all happiness, but "Mr. W. H."  May not Wither have had an inkling that the Sonnets were given to the world by Herbert, who in accepting Thorpe's dedication was as good as wishing himself all happiness and that "eternity promised by our everliving Poet," though not promised to him?  Herbert knew that he was not the man to whom Shakspeare had promised immortality, but he coyly permitted Thorpe's soft impeachment.  The imitation by Wither is obvious; and nothing could have been more to the point if he had known the exact state of the case as now presented by me.  In procuring the Sonnets for Thorpe, and permitting or accepting the dedication to himself, Herbert was to all intent and purpose "wishing himself all happiness," and "that eternity promised by our everliving Poet" to the Earl of Southampton.  There would be the satire of it, and there the satirist's arrow sticks right in the centre!  Ben Jonson likewise ostensibly alludes to Thorpe's inscription, and at the same time points out William Herbert as the object of it.  He dedicates his Epigrams to the Earl of Pembroke, and says—"While you cannot change your merit, I dare not change your title:—under which name I here offer to your lordship the ripest of my studies, my Epigrams; which, though they carry danger in the sound, do not therefore SEEK YOUR SHELTER; for when I made them I had nothing in my conscience, to expressing of which I DID NEED A CIPHER."

    This tells us plainly enough that the Earl's title had been changed in some previous dedication in which a writer had taken the disguise of using a cipher instead of his full name.  He says—"I dare not change your title,"—as had been done in 1609, and in no other instance known!  He does not seek the Earl's shelter because he has anything on his conscience that needs the covert of a cipher, as he assumes Thorpe to have had when he changed the Earl's title and dedicated under cover of "Mr. W. H."  Here is an answer once for all to those who have urged against my reading, that the "Mr. W. H." could not be William Herbert, because he was the Earl of Pembroke, and because it was not the custom of the time to address Earls as "Masters!"  Well, then, if my interpretation of Wither's dedication to himself be right, this of Ben Jonson's looks like a reply to it, as though it were an endeavour to saddle Thorpe with the responsibility of publishing Shakspeare's Sonnets and dedicating them to the Earl.  Shakspeare was dead and out of the question here.  It was Thorpe who had changed the Earl's title, and used a cipher both for his own name and Pembroke's.  And it is implied that this was done because he had something on his conscience: all was not straightforward in the affair, and so he sought the Earl's shelter under a cipher covertly.  But I do not believe Jonson to be so innocent or ignorant as he looks.  I hold him to be using "gag," as actors term it.  I am afraid he knew better—even in the act of dealing Thorpe this backhander on the mouth—knew he was offering up a scapegoat, in his dedication to the man who was really and solely responsible for putting the Sonnets into print in a bastardly sort of way.

    So far as I have had any communion with the spirit of Shakspeare, I feel that his annoyance at this surreptitious publication of the Sonnets must have been intense.  He never meant those Sonnets in which Sidney's were imitated, replied to or travestied, to be damned to immortality along with all the darlings of his love that were sacred to Southampton (Sonnet 74).  He must have been nobly angered.  Did he give "Mr. W. H." no reminder that the transaction was not fair and above-board—that the Sonnets were published—

"Not honestly, my lord, but so covertly
 That no dishonesty shall appear in you"?

I think he did.

    His way of reply in such a case would be to put it into his next play. In all probability Anthony and Cleopatra was composed about the time the Sonnets were printed. The play was not published, so far as we know, previous to its appearance in the folio of 1623, but a play with this title was entered at Stationers' Hall, May 20, 1608, in all likelihood the same. Of course the date of entry is no criterion as to the time when the play was finished. Enough if the writer was working upon it at the time the Sonnets were printed.

    Now, it has been suggested, I think by Mr. Cartwright, that the characters of Enobarbus and Menas stand for Southampton and Thorpe.  But for the nonce, or the nonsense, let them stand for Herbert and Thorpe while we read the following scene—

Eno. You have done well by water.
Men. And you by land.
Eno. I will praise any man that will praise me; though it cannot be denied what I have done by land.
Men. Nor what I have done by water.
Eno. Yes, something you can deny for your own, safety: you have been a great thief by sea.
Men. And you by land.
Eno. There I deny my land-service.  But give me your hand, Menas; if our eyes had authority here, they might take two thieves kissing.

    As sense we shall make but little of that!  Nor will Plutarch help us to unriddle the nonsense of it.  But it is so like the smiling way our Poet has of covertly alluding to real facts drawn from the life.  It looks exactly as though Shakspeare held Herbert and Thorpe to be thieves both; Herbert by land in pirating, and Thorpe by sea in publishing the Sonnets.  That "something you can deny for your own safety," sounds like a hit at Thorpe's dedication, and his wriggling politeness in trying to cast the responsibility on "W. H." and whatsoever "land-service" Herbert might deny, according to Shakspeare, the meeting-point was two thieves kissing.  A Judas-like reminder that he had been betrayed by both!  As I have no doubt he was.  In this case we have the humorous aspect only.  In Cymbeline we probably have a reflection of the madder mood that he got into when he first heard what the two thieves had done.

    In this play we meet with a British lord "who," as the author might say, "shall be nameless."  This nameless lord is only introduced in one scene, and then solely for the sake of a cuffing that he gets from Posthumus.  When the two first meet, the Lord, who has run away from the thick of the battle, is greeted with "No blame be to you, Sir; for all was lost, but that the heavens fought."  But later on in the scene Posthumus turns on his Lordship and assails him in rhymes—

    "Post.  Nay, do not wonder at it: You are made
Rather to wonder at the things you hear,
Than to work any.   Will you rhyme upon't,
And vent it for a mockery?    Here is one:
'Two boys, an old man twice a boy, a lane,
Preserved the Britons, was the Romans' bane.'
    Lord. Nay; be not angry, Sir.
    Post. 'Lack, to what end?
Who dares not stand his foe, I'll be his friend:
For if he'll do, as he is made to do,
I know he'll quickly fly my friendship too.
You have put me into rhyme.

    Lord. Farewell; you're angry."

    Now, as Posthumus had already frankly justified the Lord's retreat, there was no cause for this outburst of anger afterwards.  And why should he ask—

          "Will you rhyme upon 't,
 And vent it for a mockery?"

The Lord was not going to do, nor does he do, anything of the kind.  This he does himself, and then charges the Lord with having put HIM into rhyme.

    There is by-play in earnest here.  The Lord out of the Play had not only put the Poet into rhyme for his pleasure and amusement, but he had put him into print and vented or vended it for a mockery.  In doing this without Shakspeare's permission, and without giving him a chance of supervising the Sonnets, he had played false to their friendship, and Shakspeare was very wroth.  But, alack! to what end after the thing was done?  And by a Lord! "This is a Lord. O noble misery!"

    I cannot dissociate the printing of the Sonnets from the publication of Troilus and Cressida, which appeared in the same year (1609), by permission of certain grand possessors or owners of it, "by the grand possessors' wills."  These are obviously not Shakspeare and his fellow-actors, but some of the "Private Friends," such as Southampton and Herbert, or still likelier at the time, Herbert and his brother Philip, who prosecuted the Poet with so much favour.  The "grand possessors" are private patrons treated in opposition to the players and their public in an address to the "Eternal reader" versus the temporary spectator. [92]

    The escape that the Play had was not an escape from some powerful possessors, as Charles Knight misread the meaning, but an escape from "being sullied by the smoky breath of the multitude" through its not being played.  The address points to the play having been bespoken for a private purpose, and to its remaining the property of Shakspeare's patrons who had paid for it.  And this working to order may account for the Poet's heart being the least in it of all his dramas!

    My thesis that Shakspeare's Sonnets are partly personal and partly dramatic is now presented in an amended form, and enforced by further evidence in its favour.  This is the second attempt I have made to climb and conquer, not a very lofty, but an outlying peak of literature.  Some persons may be inclined to blame me for making such a piece of work about a subject so remote from ordinary interests.   But

The subject chose me, and I could not rest
Until the book was written at my best.

   A few readers will be sure to take an interest in my prolonged effort—that of a sleuth-hound on the track of truth—if only for the labour devoted to attain the end.  Some few will follow me for Shakspeare's sake.  I also claim for my Theory that it is proved by the utmost evidence the nature of the case admits; that the probabilities alone are such as to inspire a feeling of confidence—that these clothe themselves in a mail of poetic proof, a panoply of circumstantial evidence and confirmatory facts.  Attempting so much, it must be very assailable if wrong, only those who think me wrong must be able to set me right.  Mere professions of unbelief or non belief will be valueless; their expression idle.  My facts must be satisfactorily refuted, my Theory disproved simply and entirely, or, in the end, both will be established.  It is no argument for opponents to tell me they do not see what I see.  That may depend somewhat on the vision!  Probably those who come to the present work with the pre-conceived hypothesis to support, the personal "Axe to grind," never will see as I do.  Only those who are free to stand face to face and level-footed with the facts ever will see—the rest can only grope on blindly with their make-believe.  The truth must be determined by the whole of the data when rightly interpreted.

    I am prepared to hear from the younger generation of reviewers that what is true in my work is not altogether new, having been amused at times to find how much has been adopted from my previous version and passed on silently by others as if original.  Those who have been the most indebted to my work have been the loudest in repudiating my dramatic interpretation.  A well-known trick in disguising the trail and of denying indebtedness.  Personally I do not mind.  Truth may think herself fortunate to be considered worth the stealing!  But I may just mention that the first cast of the present work was made in the year 1866, the germ of it having previously appeared in the Quarterly Review for April, 1864.  A book that is all explanation ought not to need a preface, and this book has none; but I may also add Lore, that unless some fully-qualified and duly-equipped opponent,—not one who is armed with a bow-and-arrow,—having something new and destructively-effective to say, should be drawn or driven to reply at length and adequately to my evidence and arguments, the present work will in all likelihood contain my last word on Shakspeare's Sonnets.

    I cannot expect the result of my many years' labour to be mastered at once, for I myself best appreciate all the intricacies of the process, and the many surprises of the discovery. Some readers will find it hard to believe that a thing like this has been left for me to accomplish. Nevertheless, this thing is done; and I can trust a certain spirit in the Sonnets, that will go on pleading when my words cease; and, as Shakspeare has written, the "silence of pure Innocence persuades when speaking fails." Even so will his own innocence prevail, and with a perfect trust in the soundness of my conclusions, I shall leave the matter for the judgment of that great soul of the would which is ultimately just.





    THE name of Southampton was once well known on a past page of our rough island story; his swaling plume was looked to in the battle's front, and recognized as worn by a natural leader of fighting men.  He was of the flower of England's chivalry, and a close follower of Sir Philip Sidney in heading the onset and breaking hardily on the enemy with a noble few, without pausing to count numbers or weigh odds.

    With a natural aptitude for war, he never had sufficient scope: one of the jewels of Elizabeth's realm did not meet with a fit setting at her hand; a bright particular star of her constellation was dimmed and diminished through a baleful conjunction.  But he has a rich reprisal in being the friend of Shakspeare, beloved by him in life, embalmed by him in memory; once a sharer in his own personal affection, and for ever the partaker of his immortality on earth.

    Henry Wriothesley was the second of the two sons of Henry, the second earl of the name.   His mother was the daughter of Anthony Brown, first Viscount Montague.  The founder of the family was Thomas Wriothesley, our earl's grandfather, a favourite servant of Henry VIII., who granted to him the Promonstratensian Abbey of Tichfield, Hants, endowed with about £280 per year in 1538, creating him Baron Tichfield about the same time, and Earl of Southampton in 1546.  He died July 30, 1550.  A rare work entitled Honour in his Perfection, [93] by G. M., 4to, 1624, contains the following notice of our Southampton's ancestors—

    "Next (O Britain!) read unto thy softer nobility the story of the noble house of Southampton; that shall bring new fire to their bloods, and make of the little sparks of honour great flames of excellency.  Show them the life of Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, who was both an excellent soldier and an admirable scholar; who not only served the great king, his master, Henry VIII., in his wars, but in his council chamber; [94] not only in the field but on the bench, within his courts of civil justice.  This man, for his excellent parts, was made Lord Chancellor of England, where he governed with that integrity of heart, and true mixture of conscience and justice, that he won the hearts of both king and people.

    "After this noble prince succeeded his son, Henry, Earl of Southampton, a man of no less virtue, prowess, and wisdom, ever beloved and favoured of his prince, highly reverenced and favoured of all that were in his own rank, and bravely attended and served by the best gentlemen of those countries wherein he lived.  His muster-roll never consisted of four lacqueys and a coachman, but of a whole troop of at least a hundred well-mounted gentlemen and yeomen.  He was not known in the streets by guarded liveries but by gold chains; not by painted butterflies, ever running as if some monster pursued them, but by tall goodly fellows that kept a constant pace both to guard his person and to admit any man to their lord which had serious business.  This prince could not steal or drop into an ignoble place, neither might he do anything unworthy of his great calling; for he ever had a world of testimonies about him."

    This Earl was attached to Popery, and a zealous adherent to the cause of Mary, Queen of Scots; which led to his imprisonment in the Tower in 1572.  He died October 4, 1581, at the early age of thirty-five, bequeathing his body to be buried in the chapel of Tichfield Church, where his mother had been interred, his father having been buried in the choir of St. Andrew's Church, Holborn; and appointing that £200 should be distributed amongst the poor within his several lordships, to pray for his soul and the souls of his ancestors.

    "When it pleased the Divine goodness to take to his mercy this great Earl, he left behind to succeed him Henry, Earl of Southampton, his son (now living), being then a child.  But here methinks, Cinthius aurem vellet, something pulls me by the elbow and bids me forbear, for flattery is a deadly sin, and will damn reputation.  But, shall I that ever loved and admired this Earl, that lived many years where I daily saw this Earl, that knew him before the wars, in the wars, and since the wars—shall I that have seen him endure the worst malice or vengeance that sea, tempests, or thunder could utter, that have seen him undergo all the extremities of war; that have seen him serve in person on the enemy—shall I that have seen him receive the reward of a soldier (before the face of an enemy) for the best act of a soldier (done upon the enemy)—shall I be scared with shadows?  No; truth is my mistress, and though I can write nothing which can equal the least spark of fire within him, yet for her sake will I speak something which may inflame those that are heavy and dull, and of mine own temper.  This Earl (as I said before) came to his father's dignity in childhood, spending that and his other younger times in the study of good letters (to which the University of Cambridge is a witness), and after confirmed that study with travel and foreign observation."

     He was born October 6, 1573. His father and elder brother both died before he had reached the age of twelve years.  On December 11, 1585, he was admitted of St. John's College, Cambridge, with the denomination of Henry, Earl of Southampton, as appears by the books of that house; on June 6, 1589, he took his degree of Master of Arts, and after a residence of nearly five years, he finally left the University for London.  He is said to have won the high eulogies of his contemporaries for his uncommon proficiency, and to have been admitted about three years later to the same degree, by incorporation, at Oxford.

    The Inns of Court, according to Aulicus Coquinariæ, were always the place of esteem with the Queen, who considered that they fitted youth for the future, and were the best antechambers to her Court.  A character in Ben Jonson's Poetaster also says, "He that will now hit the mark must shoot through the law; we have no other planet reigns." And it was customary for the nobility, as well as the most considerable gentry of England, to spend some time in one of the Inns of Court, on purpose to complete their course of studies.  Soon after leaving the University, the young Earl entered himself a member of Gray's Inn, and on the authority of a roll preserved in the library of Lord Hardwick, he is said to have been a member so late as the year 1611.  Malone was inclined to believe that he was admitted a member of Lincoln's Inn, to the chapel of which society the Earl gave one of the admirably painted windows, in which his arms may be yet seen.

    One of the earliest notices of the Earl in the calendar of State Papers, [95] gives us the note of preparation for the memorable year of the "Armada," in which the encroaching tide of Spanish power was dashed back broken, from the wooden walls of England.  "June 14th," we read, "the Earl of Southampton's armour is to be scoured and dressed up by his executors!"  In consequence of his father's death, the young Earl became the ward of Lord Burghley.  He was, as he said on his trial, brought up under the Queen.  Sir Thomas Heneage, his stepfather, had been a favourite servant of the Queen from his youth; made by her Treasurer of her Chamber, and then Vice-Chamberlain; appointed in 1588 to be Treasurer at War of the armies to be levied to withstand any foreign invasion of the realm of England; and successor to Walsingham in the office of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in 1590.

    October 14th, 1590, Mary, Countess of Southampton, writes to Burghley, and thanks him for the long time he had intrusted her son with her.  She now returns the Earl, and hopes that Burghley will so dispose of him, that his exercises be such as may and must grace persons of his quality.  He only is able to work her son's future happiness. [96]

    It appears that Burghley had contemplated the marriage of the Earl with his granddaughter, for on the 15th July, 1590, Sir Thomas Stanhope writes to Lord Burghley, and assures him that he had never sought to procure the young Earl of Southampton in marriage for his own daughter, as he knew Burghley intended a marriage between him and the Lady Vere.  And on the 19th September, same year, Anthony Viscount Montague writes to Lord Burghley to the effect that he has had a conversation with the Earl of Southampton as to his engagement of marriage with Burghley's granddaughter.  The Countess of Southampton, the Earl's mother, and Montague's daughter, is not aware of any alteration in her son's mind. [97]  The son's mind was changed, however; the lady was destined only to play the part of Rosaline until Juliet appeared; the impression in wax was doomed to be melted when once the real fire of love was kindled.

    About this time the frankness of the Earl's nature and the ardour of his friendship flashed out in a characteristic act of reckless generosity.  Two of his young friends had got into trouble; the provocation is not known, but they had broken into the house of one Henry Long, at Draycot in Wiltshire, and, in a struggle, Long was killed.  These were the two brothers, Sir Charles and Sir Henry Danvers.  They informed the Earl that a life had been unfortunately lost in an affray, and threw themselves under his protection.  He concealed them for some time in his house at Tichfield, and afterwards conveyed them to France, where Sir Charles Danvers became highly distinguished as a soldier under Henry IV.  He returned to England in 1598, having with great difficulty obtained the Queen's pardon, and his personal attachment to the Earl of Southampton caused him to lose his head on Tower Hill, in March, I601.  Sir Henry lived for many years after his brother's death; he was created Baron Danvers by King James I, in the first year of his reign, and by King Charles l., Earl of Derby.

    The young Earl of Southampton became so great a favourite at Court, and was noticed so graciously by Her Majesty, as to excite the displeasure and jealousy of' the Earl of Essex and Ewe. [98] As in the case of Sir Charles Blount, Essex appears to have personally resented the favour shown by the Queen to Southampton, and we are told that emulations and differences arose betwixt the two Earls, who were rivals for Her Majesty's affection.  Of this we get a glimpse in the story told by Wotton.  Also the favours, the rivalry, and the consequent personal differences, are implied in the following note of Rowland White's in the Sydney Memoirs, [99] dated Oct. lst, 1595:—"My Lord of Essex kept his bed all yesterday; his Favour continues quam diu se bene gesserit. Yet, my Lord of Southampton is a careful waiter here, and sede vacante, doth receive favours at her Majesty's hands; all this without breach of amity between them"—i.e. the two Earls.

    But a new influence was now at work to make the rivals friends.  The Earl of Southampton had met the "faire Mistress Vernon," and fallen deeply in love with her.  This affection for the Earl of Essex's cousin joined the hands of the two Earls in the closest grasp of friendship, only to be relaxed by death.  Love for the cousin was the incentive for Southampton to cast in his lot with the fortunes of Essex, and become the other self of his friend.  There were reasons why there should be no further breach of amity between the two Earls.  Eight days before the date of White's letter just quoted, he had written thus,—"My Lord of Southampton doth with too much familiarity court the fair Mistress Vernon, while his friends, observing the Queen's humours towards my Lord of Essex, do what they can to bring her to favour him, but it is yet in vain." [100] This lady, who afterwards became Countess of Southampton, was a maid of honour, and a beauty of Elizabeth's Court; she was cousin to the Earl of Essex, and daughter of Sir John Vernon of Hodnet, by Elizabeth Devereux, Essex's aunt.  Shakspeare's acquaintance with Lord and Lady Southampton, and consequent knowledge of her family belonging to Shropshire, may have lead him to introduce a Sir John Vernon in The First Part of Henry IV.  Hodnet is thirteen miles from Shrewsbury, and the high road leading to the latter place passes over the plain where the battle was fought in which Falstaff performed his prodigies of valour for "a long hour by Shrewsbury clock."

    Rowland White's statement contains matter of great moment to our subject.  The Earl of Southampton's love for Elizabeth Vernon cost him the favour of the Queen.  Her Majesty was not to be wrought on, even through "her humours towards my Lord of Essex," to restore the fallen favourite to his lost place in her regards.  As the breach of amity betwixt the two Earls had closed, that between her Majesty and Southampton continually widened.  She forbade his marriage, and opposed it in a most implacable spirit.  Whatsoever may have been the Queen's motive, she certainly did not forgive, first the falling in love, and next the marriage of the Earl of Southampton with Elizabeth Vernon.

    Birch quotes a letter of Antonio Perez, written in Latin, dated May 20th, 1595, which contains a reference to the Earl of Essex and his ill situation at Court, and he suggests that the cause probably arose from the Queen's displeasure at the share taken by Essex in the marriage of his cousin to the Earl of Southampton without her Majesty's permission or knowledge.

    But as the marriage did not take place until late in 1598, we must look a little further for the meaning of Mr. Standen's letter to Mr. Bacon, same date, in which he relates what he had learned the night before among the court ladies, to the effect that the Lady Rich, Elizabeth Vernon's cousin, having visited the lady of Sir Robert Cecil at her house, understood that Elizabeth Vernon and her ill good man had waited on Sunday two hours to have spoken with the Queen, but could not.  At last Mistress Vernon sent in word that she desired her Majesty's resolution.  To which the Queen replied that she was sufficiently resolved, but that the next day she would talk with her farther. [101]  Whatsoever the precise occurrence may have been, it is doubtless the one referred to by Rowland White.  The Earl had been courting Mistress Vernon too warmly for the cloistral coolness of Elizabeth's Court; this had reached her Majesty's ears.  I surmise that the affair was similar in kind to that of Raleigh and Mrs. Throckmorton two or three years before, and that the Earl and Mistress Vernon were most anxious to get married, as their prototypes had done.  But Elizabeth, either for reasons or motives of her own, "resolved" they should not.  We may consider this to have been one of the various occasions on which Southampton was ordered to absent himself from Court.  We have heard much of the subject from the Sonnets.  Nearly two years later the familiarity became still more apparent, in spite of the Queen's attempt to keep the persecuted pair apart.  The Earl was again ordered to keep away from the Court.  The gossips, who had seen the coming events casting their shadows before, were at length justified.  But I am anticipating.

    The exact period of "travel and foreign observation," alluded to by the author of Honour in his Perfection, is unidentifiable, but I conjecture that "leave of absence" and a journey followed the explosion of 1595, when the Earl had been courting the fair Mistress Vernon "with too much familiarity."  Her Majesty's "resolve," expressed in reply to the message of Elizabeth Vernon, is sufficiently ominous, although not put into words for us.

    It has been stated that the Earl was with Essex, as an unattached volunteer, at the attack on Cadiz, in the summer of 1596.  This, Malone asserted on grounds apparently strong.   In the Catalogue of the MSS, in the library of the Earl of Denbigh—Catalogi Librarum Manuscriptorum Anglia, &c., vol. ii. p. 36, the following notice is found: "Diana of Montemayor (the first part), done out of Spanish by Thomas Wilson, Esq., in the year 1596, and dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, who was then upon the Spanish voyage with my Lord of Essex." [102]  He could not, however, have left England in company with Essex, as on the lst of July, 1596, the Earl executed at London a power of attorney to Richard Rounching to receive a thousand pounds of George, Earl of Cumberland, and John Taylor his servant.  Also it may be calculated that if he had been in action on that occasion, we should have heard of his part in the fight.  But it is quite probable that he followed in the wake of the expedition, and the legal transaction has the look of an arrangement or agreement such as might have been made on leaving England in haste.  Being too late to share in the storming of Cadiz, which was taken before Southampton could have left London, he may have joined his friend Roger Manners, Earl of Rutland, who was then making a tour of France, Italy, and Switzerland. [103]  From the time that the Queen forbade his marriage with Elizabeth Vernon, and ordered him to absent himself from the Court, up to the death of Essex, it was a period of great trial and vexation for a proud impetuous spirit like his.  Thwarted in his dearest wish to wed the woman he loved, and constantly checked in his public career, he became more and more impatient when struck by the stings and arrows of his cruel and outrageous fortune, that so pitilessly pursued him.  Outbreaks of his fiery blood, and "tiffs" with his mistress were frequent.  He appears to have got away from London as often as he could; though most anxious to do England service he "hoisted sail to every wind" that would blow him the farthest from her.  He was most unlike his stepfather, Sir Thomas Heneage, who had been for so many years a docile creature of the Court, and who, as Camden tells us, was of so spruce and polite address, that he seemed purely calculated for a court.  Southampton had not the spirit that bows as the wind blows.  He was more at home in mail than in silken suit.  Like the "brave Lord Willoughby," he could not belong to the Reptiliæ of court life.  He had a will of his own, a spirit that stood erect and panted for free air, and that trick of the frank tongue so often attending the full heart of youthful honesty.  The words of Mr. Robert Markham, written to John Harington, Esq., somewhat apply to the Earl of Southampton: "I doubt not your valour, nor your labour, but that damnable uncovered Honesty will mar your fortunes."  And the Queen's persistent opposition to his love, her determination to punish him for disobedience and wilfulness, kept him on the continual fret, and tended to turn his restlessness into recklessness, his hardihood into fool-hardihood, his daring into dare-devilry, the honey of his love into the very gall of bitterness.

    Rowland White, writing to Sir Robert Sidney at Flushing, March 2, 1597, says, [104] "My Lord of Southampton hath leave for one year to travel, and purposes to be with you before Easter.  He told my lady that he would see you before she should."  The Earl was for leaving England again in his discontent and weariness.  But the famous Island Voyage was now talked of, and Southampton was not the man to lose a chance if there were any fighting to be done.  He had some difficulty in obtaining a command, but was at length appointed to the Garland.  Rowland White, in his letter of April 9, says, "My Lord of Southampton, by 200 means, hath gotten leave to go with them" (Essex and Raleigh).  The influence here exerted in favour of the Earl was Cecil's.  Whatsoever the feeling of Cecil toward Essex, he proved himself on various occasions to have been the true good friend of the Earl of Southampton.  "The Earl was made commander of the Garland," to quote once more from Honour in his Perfection, and was "Vice-admiral of the first squadron.  In his first putting out to sea (July, 1597) he saw all the terrors and evils which the sea had power to show to mortality, insomuch that the general and the whole fleet (except some few ships of which this Earl's was one) were driven back into Plymouth, but this Earl, in spite of storms, held out his course, made the coast of Spain, and after, upon an adviso, returned.  The fleet, new reinforced, made forth to sea again with better prosperity, came to the islands of the Azores, and there first took the island of Fiall, sacked and burnt the great town, took the high fort which was held impregnable, and made the rest of the islands, as Pike, Saint George's, and Gratiosa, obedient to the general's service.  Then the fleet returning from Fiall, it pleased the general to divide it, and he went himself on the one side of Gratiosa, and the Earl of Southampton, with some three more of the Queen's ships and a few small merchant ships, sailed on the other; when early on a morning by spring of day, this brave Southampton lit upon the King of Spain's Indian fleet, laden with treasure, being about four or five and thirty sail, and most of them great warlike galleons.  They had all the advantage that sea, wind, number of ships, or strength of men could give them; yet, like a fearful herd, they fled from the fury of our Earl, who, notwithstanding, gave them chase with all his canvas.  One he took, and sunk her; divers he dispersed, which were taken after, and the rest he drove into the island of Tercera, which was then unassailable."  Camden continues the story. "When the enemy's ships had got off safely to Tercera, Southampton and Vere attempted to crowd into the haven with great boats at midnight, and to cut the cables of the nearest ships, that they might be forced to sea by the gusts which blew from shore."  But the Spaniards kept too strict a watch, and the project miscarried. [105]  After the English had taken and "looted" the town of Villa Franca, the Spaniards, finding that most of them had returned to their ships, made an attack in great force upon the remaining few.  The Earls of Southampton and Essex stood almost alone, with a few friends, but these received the attack with such spirit that many of the Spaniards were slain, and the rest forced to retreat.  On this occasion Southampton fought with such gallantry, that Essex in a burst of enthusiasm knighted his friend on the field, "ere he could dry the sweat from his brows, or put his sword up in his scabbard."

    Sir William Monson, one of the admirals of the expedition, the martinet who so disparaged Sir Richard Grenville's great fight, took a different view from that of Essex of what Southampton had done on this voyage.  He considered that time had been lost in the chase, which might have been better employed.  On his return to England Southampton found the Queen had adopted the opinion of Monson rather than of Essex, and he had the mortification of being met with a frown of displeasure for having presumed to pursue and sink a ship without direct orders from his commander, instead of being welcomed with a smile for having done the only bit of warm work that was performed on the "Island Voyage."  This was just like the Earl's luck all through, after his refusal to marry the Lady Vere and his fatal falling in love with Elizabeth Vernon.  His intimacy with Essex was a secondary cause of his misfortunes.

    The Queen often acted toward Essex in the spirit of that partial mother instanced by Fuller, who when her neglected son complained that his brother, her favourite, had hit and hurt him with a stone, whipped him for standing in the way of the stone which the brother had cast!

    On this occasion the quarrels of Essex and Raleigh were visited on the head of Southampton.  Fortune appeared to have an unappeasable spite against him; the world seemed bent upon thwarting his desires and crossing his deeds.  Do what he might it was impossible for him to be in the right.  There is little marvel that he grew of a turbulent spirit, or that his hot temper broke out in frequent quarrels; that he should wax more and more unsteady, much to the sorrow and chagrin of his mistress, who wept over the ill reports that she heard of his doings, and waited, hoping for the better days to come when he should pluck his rose [106] from the midst of the thorns, and wear it on his breast in peaceful joy.

    In January, 1598, a disgraceful affair occurred in Court which became the subject of common scandal.  On the 19th of that month Rowland White writes:—"I hard of some unkindness should be between 3000 (the No. in his cipher for Southampton) and his Mistress, occasioned by some report of Mr. Ambrose Willoughby.  3000 called hym to an account for yt, but the matter was made knowen to my Lord of Essex, and my Lord Chamberlain, who had them in Examinacion; what the cause is I could not learne, for yt was but new; but I see 3000 full of discontentments." [107]  And on the 21st of January he says:—"The quarrel of my Lord Southampton to Ambrose Willoughby grew upon this: that he with Sir Walter Raleigh and Mr. Parker being at primero [108] (a game of cards), in the Presence Chamber; the Queen was gone to bed, and he being there as Squire for the Body, desired them to give over.  Soon after he spoke to them again, that if they would not leave he would call in the guard to pull down the board, which, Sir Walter Raleigh seeing, put up his money and went his ways.  But my Lord Southampton took exceptions at him, and told him he would remember it; and so finding him between the Tennis Court wall and the garden shook him, and Willoughby pulled out some of his locks.  The Queen gave Willoughby thanks for what he did in his Presence, and told him he had done better if he had sent him to the Porter's Lodge to see who durst have fetched him out." [109]

    The Earl also had a quarrel with Percy, Earl of Northumberland, which produced a challenge, and nearly ended in a duel.  Percy sent copies of the papers to Mr. Bacon with a letter, in which he gives an account of the affair.  The sole point of interest in this quarrel lies in the likelihood that Touchstone, in As You Like It, is aiming at it when he says: "O, Sir; we quarrel in print by the book; as you have books for good manners.  I will name you the degrees: the first, the retort courteous; the second, the quip modest; the third, the reply churlish; the fourth, the reproof valiant; the fifth, the counterbeck quarrelsome; the sixth, the lie with circumstance; the seventh, the lie direct.  All these you may avoid but the lie direct; and you may avoid that too with an 'If.'  I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel; but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an 'If' as 'If' you said so, then I said so; and they shook hands and swore brothers.  Your if is the only peacemaker; much virtue in if."

    We may find an illustration of "the Percy's" temper in a letter of Mr. Chamberlain's to Mr. Winwood in 1613, which relates that Percy has, while in the Tower, beaten Ruthven, the Earl of Gowrie's brother, for daring to cross his path in the garden.  So that when we read of Southampton's quarrels, it will only be fair to remember who are his fellows in fieriness.  The Percy appears to have had his match, however, in his own wife, Dorothy Devereux, the sister of Lady Rich and Robert Earl of Essex.  In one of their domestic quarrels the Earl of Northumberland had said he would rather the King of Scots were buried than crowned, and that both he and all his friends would end their lives before her brother's great God should reign in his element.  To which the lady spiritedly replied, that rather than any other save James should reign king of England she would eat their hearts in salt, though she were brought to the gallows immediately. [110]

    In spite of his quarrels, the scuffle with Willoughby and the consequent scandals, the Earl attended to his duty as a senator from October 24, 1597, till the end of the session, February 8, 1598.  He also entered upon an engagement to accompany Mr. Secretary Cecil on an embassy to Paris.  A few extracts from Rowland White's letters will continue the story.

    January 14, 1598.—"I hear my Lord Southampton goes with Mr. Secretary to France, and so onward on his travels, which course of his doth extremely grieve his mistress, that passes her time in weeping and lamenting."

    January 28, 1598.—"My Lord Southampton is now at Court, who, for a while, by her Majesty's command, did absent himself,"

    January 30.—"My Lord Compton, my Lord Cobham, Sir Walter Raleigh, my Lord Southampton, do severally feast Mr. Secretary before he depart, and have plays and banquets."

    February 1.—"My Lord of Southampton is much troubled at her Majesty's strangest usage of him.  Somebody hath played unfriendly parts with him.  Mr. Secretary hath procured him licence to travel.  His fair mistress doth wash her fairest face with too many fears.  I pray God his going away bring her to no such infirmity which is as it were hereditary to her name."

    February 2, 1598.—"It is secretly said that my Lord Southampton shall be married to his fair mistress."

    February 12,—"My Lord of Southampton is gone, and hath left behind him a very desolate gentlewoman that hath almost wept out her fairest eyes.  He was at Essex House with 1000 (Earl of Essex), and there had much private talk with him for two hours in the court below."

    On March 17, Cecil introduced his friend, at Angers, to Henry IV., telling the king that Lord Southampton "was come with deliberation to do him service."  His Majesty received the Earl with warm expressions of regard.  Here again Southampton met with the customary frustration of his hopes; he had come for the express purpose of serving under so famous a commander, and was eager for the campaign, which was suddenly stopped by the peace of Vervins.  There was nothing to be done except to have a look at Paris, and there he stayed some months.

    July 15, 1598, Thomas Edmondes to Sir Robert Sidney writes:—"I send your lordship certain songs, [111] which were delivered me by my Lord Southampton to convey to your lordship from Cavelas.  His lordship commendeth himself most kindly to you, and would have written to you if it had not been for a little slothfulness."

    The same writer fixes the time of the Earl's return.  He writes, November 2, 1598:—"My Lord of Southampton that now goeth over can inform your lordship at large of the state of all things here." [112]

    But, according to Mr. Chamberlain's letter of August 30, 1598, the Earl of Southampton must have made a special journey from Paris for the purpose of effecting his marriage, and been on his way back when accompanied to Margate by Sir Thomas Germaine.  Elizabeth Vernon had been compelled to retire from the Court.  Chamberlain writes:-"Mistress Vernon is from the Court, and lies at Essex House (where the Earl of Essex was the fair Elizabeth's companion in disfavour).  Some say she hath taken a venue under her girdle, and swells upon it; yet she complains not of foul play, but says my Lord of Southampton will justify it, and it is bruited underhand that he was lately here four days in great secret of purpose to marry her, and effected it accordingly."  A week later the same writer says:—"Yesterday the Queen was informed of the new Lady of Southampton and her adventures, whereat her patience was so much moved that she came not to chapel.  She threateneth them all to the Tower, not only the parties, but all that are partakers of the practice.  It is confessed the Earl was here, and solemnized the act himself, and Sir Thomas Germaine accompanied him on his return to Margate."  In his next letter Mr. Chamberlain says:—"I now understand that the Queen hath commanded the novizia countess the sweetest and best appointed lodging in the Fleet; her lord is by commandment to return upon his allegiance with all speed.  These are but the beginnings of evil; well may he hope for that merry day on his deathbed, which I think he shall not find on his wedding couch." [113]  The stolen marriage could only have been just in time for the child to be born in wedlock.  November 8, Chamberlain writes:—"The new Countess of Southampton is brought to bed of a daughter; and, to mend her portion, the Earl, her father, hath lately lost 1800 crowns at tennis in Paris."  On the 22nd of this month the same writer says:—"The Earl of Southampton is come home, and for his welcome is committed to the Fleet."  That the Earl was thrust into prison on his return we might have inferred from the words of Essex in his letter of July 11, 1599:—"Was it treason in my Lord of Southampton to marry my poor kinswoman, that neither long imprisonment nor any punishment besides that hath been usual in like cases can satisfy or appease?  Or, will no kind of punishment be fit for him but that which punisheth not him but me, this army, and this poor country Ireland?"  When a young man marries, says an Arab adage, the demon utters a fearful cry.  And Elizabeth seems to have been almost as profoundly affected on such occasions.

    This fact of Southampton's love for Elizabeth Vernon, and the Queen's opposition to their marriage, is the chief point of interest in the Earl's life, because it is one of the main facts in relation to the Sonnets of Shakspeare.  It is my conclusion that this pair of ill-starred lovers was badly treated by her Majesty.  She not only rejected everything proposed by Essex for the advancement of his friend, but continued, as we shall see, the same spiteful policy when Lord Mountjoy wished to advance the fortunes of the Earl in a wider sphere of action.

    Southampton, Elizabeth Vernon, and their common friends, tried long and hard to obtain the Queen's consent to the marriage, but as she would not give it, and showed no signs of relenting, they waited long, and at last did the very natural thing of getting married without it.  This being done, what more is there to be said? It is unfair to talk of the Earl being licentiously in love with Mistress Vernon when the Queen would not grant them the licence.  The marriage certainly took place in one of the later months of 1598, and the bitterness of the Queen towards Southampton was thereby much increased.  The Queen was jealous and enraged to find any of her favourites loving elsewhere, or sufficiently unloyal to her personal beauty to get married.  It was so when Hatton, Leicester, and Essex married; but no one of them all was so virulently pursued as the Earl of Southampton.  Towards no one else was the fire of anger kept so long aglow.  It makes one fancy there must have been some feeling of animosity betwixt the two Elizabeths, which has not come to the surface.

    In 1599 Essex was appointed Lord-Deputy of Ireland, and Southampton accompanied him thither.  On their arrival Essex made his friend General of Horse.  By her Majesty's letter to Essex, July 19, [114] we learn that this was "expressly forbidden" by the Queen, who said, "It is therefore strange to us that you will dare thus to value your own pleasing, and think by your own private arguments to carry for your own glory a matter wherein our pleasure to the contrary is made notorious."  The Queen did not intend Southampton to be employed, and after some defensive pleadings Essex had to give him up.  Before resigning his command he had done some little service.  Sir J. Harington [115] gives us a glimpse of the Earl's daring and dash in action.  June 30, about three miles from Arklow, the army had to pass a ford.  The enemy was ready to dispute or trouble the army in its passage.  The Earl of Essex ordered Southampton to charge, the enemy having retired himself into his strength, a part of them casting away their arms for lightness."  Then the Earl of Southampton tried to draw them on to firm ground, out of the bog and woodland, and at length he gathered up his troop, and seeing it lost time to endeavour to draw the vermin from their strength, resolved to charge them at all disadvantage, which was performed with that suddenness and resolution that the enemy which was before dispersed in skirmish had not time to put himself in order; so that by the opportunity of occasion taken by the Earl, and virtue of them that were with him (which were almost all noble), there was made a notable slaughter of the rebels."  Here, too, we find fighting by Southampton's side a brother of Elizabeth Vernon, who managed to kill his man previous to his own horse going down in the bog and rolling a-top of him.  The Earl of Southampton was such a leader of horse as could inspire the foe with a salutary respect, and cause them to watch warily all his motions.  It was in one of these skirmishes that the Lord Grey pursued a small body of the enemy in opposition to Southampton's orders.  He was punished with a night's imprisonment, or rather, as Mr. Secretary Cecil explained in a letter to Sir H. Neville, "the confinement was merely for order sake, Grey being a colonel, and Southampton a general."  But my Lord Grey took it as a personal affront, and brooded over it bitterly, seeking to make it a cause of quarrel.

    The Earl remained by the side of Essex some time after his command had been taken from him.  He was present at a council of war held at the Castle of Dublin, August 21, and was one of the chief men that accompanied Essex at his conference with Tyrone early in September, 1599, when a truce was concluded.  We next hear of him in London by White's letter of October 11—"My Lord Southampton and Lord Rutland came not to Court; the one doth but very seldom; they pass away the time in London merely in going to plays every day." [116]  Southampton's sword had been struck from his hand, the Earl of Rutland had been recalled, the policy at Court being to lame Essex through his personal friends.  Lord Grey, too, we find, is observed to be much discontented.  His ill feeling towards Southampton is smouldering, soon to break out in a desperate attack upon Southampton with drawn sword in open day and public street.  He also challenged Southampton.  Rowland White, January 24, 1600, tells his correspondent that Lord Grey had sent the Earl of Southampton a challenge, which "I hear he answered thus—that he accepted it; but for the weapons and the place being by the laws of honour to be chosen by him, he would not prefer the combat in England, knowing the danger of the laws, and the little grace and mercy he was to expect if he ran into the danger of them.  He therefore would let him know, ere it were long, what time, what weapon, and what place he would choose for it."  The violent temper and quarrelsome disposition of Southampton have been much dwelt upon.  I repeat, it is only just that we should note the spirit of his personal opponents; and here we may recall the last words of Sir Charles Danvers on the scaffold.  Amongst others present was the Lord Grey.  Sir Charles asked pardon of him, and acknowledged he had been "ill affected to him purely on the Earl of Southampton's account, towards whom the Lord Grey professed absolute enmity."

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[90.](page  309)


    "I happen to possess a Table-book of Shakspeare's time.  It is a little book, nearly square, being three inches wide, and something less than four in length, bound stoutly in calf, and fastened with four strings of broad, strong, brown tape.  The title as follows—'Writing Tables, with a Kalendar for XXIIII yeeres, with sundrie necessarie rules.  The Tables made by Robert Triplet.  London.  Imprinted for the Company of Stationers.' The Tables are inserted immediately after the almanack.

    "At first sight they appear like what we call Asses-skin, the colour being precisely the same, but the leaves are thicker; whatever smell they may have had is lost, and there is no gloss upon them.  It might be supposed that the gloss had been worn off, but this is not the case, for most of the Tables have never been written on.  Some of the edges being worn show that the middle of file leaf consists of paper; the
composition is laid on with great nicety.  A silver style was used, which is sheathed in one of the Covers, and which produces an impression as distinct and as easily obliterated as that of a black-lead pencil.

    "The Tables are interleaved with common paper."—Southey's Omniana, vol. i. p.133.

[91.]   Vide Reliquæ Antiqua, vol. i. p. 11.

[92.](page 316)


"Eternal reader, you have here a new play, never Staled with the Stage, never clapper-clawed with the palms of the vulger, and yet passing full of the palm comical; for it is a birth of your (that) brain, that never undertook anything comical vainly: and were but the vain names of Comedies changed for the titles of Commodities, or of Plays for Pleas; you should see all those grand Censors, that now style them such vanities, flock to them for the main grace of their gravities; especially this author's Comedies, that are so framed to the life, that they serve for the most common Commentaries of all the actions of our lives, showing such a dexterity and power of wit, that the most displeased with the Plays are pleased with his Comedies.  And all such dull and heavy-witted worldlings, as were never capable of the wit of a Comedy, coming by report of them to his representations, have found that wit there, that they never found in themselves, and have parted better-witted than they came; feeling an edge of wit set upon them, more than ever they dreamed they had brain to grind it on!  So much and such flavoured salt of wit is in his Comedies, that they seem (for their height of pleasure) to be borne in the sea that brought forth Venus.  Amongst all there is none more witty than this: and had I time I would comment upon it, though I know it needs it not (for so much as will make you think your testern (6d.) well bestowed), but for so much worth, as even poor I know to be stuffed in it.  It deserves such a labour, as well as the best comedy in Terence or Plautus, and believe this, that when he is gone, and his Comedies out of sale, you will scramble for them, and set up a new English Inquisition.  Take this for a warning, and at the peril of your pleasures loss, and judgments, refuse not, nor like this the less, for not being sullied with the smoky breath of the multitude; but thank fortune for the scape it hath made amongst you.  Since by the grand possessors' wills, I believe you should have prayed for them rather than been prayed.  And so I leave all such to he prayed for (for the states of their wits' healths) that will not praise it."—Vale.

Shakspeare's Centurie of Prayse. C. M. Ingleby, LL.D., p. 87.

[93.](page 318)   Honour in his Perfection, supposed by Malone to have been written by Gervase Markham. But Gervase was accustomed to write his name Jarvis or Iarvis.  He signs his Sonnets dedicatory to his tragedy of Sir Richard Grenville, his dedication to the of Poems, or Sion's Muse, and his contributions to England's Helicon with the initials J. M., not G. M.  I rather think that Honour in his Perfection was written by Griffith or Griffin Markham, the brother of Gervase.  He served under the Earl of Southampton in Ireland as Colonel of Horse, and was an intimate personal friend. '

[94.](page 318)   As Secretary of State.

[95.](page 320)   Domestic Series of the Reign of Elizabeth, 1581-1590, p. 417.

[96.](page 320)   Calendar of State Papers, Ib. p. 693.

 [97.](page 320)   Calendar of State Papers, p. 688.

[98.](page 321)   See pp. 53-4.

[99.](page 321)   Vol. ii. p. 61.
[100.](page 321)  Sydney Memoirs, vol. i. h. 348.

[101.](page 322)   Birch's Elizabeth, vol. i. p. 238.

[102.](page 322)  It has been a subject of wonder how Shakspeare got at the Diana of Montemayor, to take so much of his Two Gentlemen of Verona from it.  But as both he and Wilson were under the patronage of Southampton, Shakspeare might have had a look at Wilson's translation long before it was printed.  Attention had been drawn to the drama by Sidney's translations from it made for Lady Rich.

[103.](page 323)  It was on the occasion of the Earl of Rutland's journey in 1595 that Essex addressed to him the long letter of advice which may be found in the Harleian MSS. (4888. 16).

[104.](page 323)  Sydney Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 24.

[105.](page 324)  Camden's Elizabeth, p.598.

[106.](page 325)  For nothing this wide universe I call,
                               Save Thou, my Rose, in it thou art my all.—Sonnet 109.

[107.](page 325)  Sydney Memoirs, vol. ii, pp. 82-3.

[108.](page 325)  If we are to believe Falstaff, it was primero that was fatal to him.  "I never prospered since I foreswore myself at primero."—Merry Wives of Windsor, IV. v.

[109.](page 325)  Sydney Memoirs, vol. ii. pp. 82-3.

[110.](page 326)  Birch's Elizabeth, vol. ii. p. 514.  Perhaps Shakspeare had heard of this when he made Beatrice exclaim, "O God, that I were a man!  I would eat his heart in the market-place."

[111.](page 327)  Very possibly some of the Sonnets sent by Shakspeare to the Earl in Paris.  There were two familiar visitors at sir Robert Sidney's house who were much interested in the Sonnets of Shakspeare, viz., William Herbert and Lady Rich; and this was the year in which the Sonnets among the "Private Friends" were mentioned by Meres.

[112.](page 327)  Sydney's Memoirs, vol. ii. pp. 102-4.

[113.](page 327)  S. P. O.

[114.](page 328)  S.P.O.

[115.](page 328)  Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. i. p. 287.

[116.](page 329) 
Sydney Memoirs, vol. ii, p. 132.