- III -
PRIMARY FACTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FALLACIES.
THEORIZERS who seek to establish and perpetuate the
belief that "William Herbert" was the "Only Begetter" or objective
inspirer of Shakspeare's Sonnets, as lumped together by Thorpe in his
Inscription, are forced to ignore the most vital internal evidence and
blink the most conclusive external data. Evidence within the Sonnets and
from without; evidence poetic and historic; evidence the most positive and
irrefutable, can be offered to show that the mass of them (at least the
first 86 as they stand) were composed at a period too early for William
Herbert to have been the young friend who was so beloved by Shakspeare,
and the patron to whom the Poet sent his earliest Sonnets, written by his
"Pupil Pen," to "witness duty," to identify his present and to promise him
his future work. It is not what I may say, or Messrs. Brown, Dowden,
and Furnivall may surmise or profess to believe, but what are the facts of
the case to be found in the Sonnets, corroborated by the testimony outside
of them? Is there any rock of reality on which we can build the
bridge to cross a chasm hitherto impassable?
At the outset the Sonnets plainly tell us that they had no
"Only Begetter" in the sense of one sole inspirer, seeing that
both sexes are addressed in them; and both sexes must include at least
two persons! Next they inform us, with Shakspeare for speaker, that
many of them were written by the Poet with his "Pupil Pen" before
he had appeared in print with his Venus and Adonis in the year
1593. The 26th Sonnet is perfectly explicit on that point.
"Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
To thee I send this written embassage,
To witness duty, not to show my wit:
Duty so great which wit so poor as mine
May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it;
But that I hope some good conceit of thine
In thy soul's thought, all naked, will bestow it:
Till whatsoever star that, guides my moving
Points on me graciously with fair aspect,
And puts apparel on my tattered loving,
To show me worthy of thy sweet respect:
Then, may I dare to boast, how I do love thee;
Till then, not show my head where thou mayst prove me."
must be very confused or obstructed by the subjective blinkers of a false
belief not to see that this was written and sent in MS. to the friend
addressed before the writer had published anything, that is, before the
year 1593, when William Herbert was just thirteen years of age. Also,
nothing can be more certain than that this was written and sent to the
friend, who was his patron at that time, that is before 1593, with its
kindred and accompanying group of Sonnets, which are referred to
previously (Sonnet 23) as his "Books"; Books intended to plead silently
for the patron's love until such time as he can boast of his friendship
It is equally evident that Shakspeare did not know exactly
where his success was to be won, or how his "moving" on his course would
be guided, when this Sonnet was written, although there may possibly be an
allusion to the Venus (then in hand) as the planet under which the
first work was to be brought to birth! Meanwhile, he asks his patron
to accept these Sonnets in manuscript to "witness duty" privately, not to
"show his wit" in public. Before venturing to address him in a
printed dedication, he will wait until his star shall smile on him
graciously, and his love shall be able to clothe itself in fit apparel,
that is, when he is ready to put forth a poem such as he may not shrink
from offering to his patron in public; the present Sonnets being
exclusively private; then will he hope to show himself worthy of the
friend's "sweet respect," but till then he will not dare to dress out his
love for the critical eye of the world, will not lift up his head to boast
publicly in print of that love in his heart which he now expresses in
writing. Here are three indisputable facts recorded by Shakspeare
himself. He writes these earlier Sonnets with his "Pupil Pen"; he
sends them as private exercises before he appears in print, and he is
looking forward hopefully to the time when he may be ready with a work
which shall be more worthy of his love than are these Sonnets—preliminary
ambassadors that announce his purpose—which work he intends to dedicate
publicly to the man whom he addresses privately as his patron and friend,
and appear in person; that is, by name; where the merits of his poetry may
be tested, that is, in print.
Whosoever we may hold to have been the Lord of Shakspeare's
love here addressed, he would know, however much may be hidden from us,
whether or not the Poet was telling the truth; and there can be no other
conclusion for those who give heed seriously to Shakspeare's own words,
than that the 26th Sonnet, together with those to which it is Ambassador
or L'Envoy, were presented to the same patron privately before the
Venus and Adonis was inscribed to him publicly, when the Poet
ventured to test the worth of his work, and to ascertain how the world
would censure him for "choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a
Again, in Sonnet 23 the writer tells us how in presence of
his friend he feels like some imperfect actor on the stage who forgets his
part when he is before the public, and cannot put into words the wealth of
affection with which his heart is overcharged. It is all there, as
we say, but he cannot utter it, and he makes the best excuse he can for
his extreme diffidence in this delightful personal Sonnet. "O let
my books be then the eloquence and dumb presagers of my speaking breast.
O learn to read what silent love hath writ!" "Silent love" is
that with which he was writing these two Sonnets and their fellows of the
particular group that go with them; the silent love which preceded and
heralded the love that was dedicated later and aloud in a printed book.
These "Books" are the Sonnets sent in "Written Embassage."
They were the "dumb presagers" of that which he intended to say, and
afterwards did say, publicly to his friend when he printed—in 1593-4.
This friend to whom the Sonnets were addressed, and to whom the promises
of public dedication are here made, is afterwards identified by
Shakspeare's dedications in print as the Earl of Southampton—not William
Herbert, to whom he did not dedicate anything that he ever printed!
The only two Books published by Shakspeare himself were both inscribed to
the Earl of Southampton, the first to "witness duty" as promised in Sonnet
26, the second being offered to him with a dedication, not merely of his
Book, but of his "love without end"; a love so totally his that the Book
was but a "superfluous moiety." Consequently, if the Books thus
consecrated to Southampton had been published at the time of
writing they must have been included, and thus they identify the person to
whom Shakspeare's "Books" were offered as dumb representatives of himself.
If, on the other hand, these Sonnets were written first by his "Pupil
Pen," and they are the "Books" he speaks of, then the public
dedications prove that Southampton was the person addressed through these
Sonnets in which the silent love and presaging breast express the promises
afterwards fulfilled, and he must be the object of the "Books" spoken of
in private, whether these were Books of Sonnets in MS. or the Poems in
print. Either way Shakspeare's "Books" identify Southampton
as the object of Shakspeare's love, and therefore as the original
"Begetter," Inspirer or Evoker of the Sonnets. Moreover, we have
Shakspeare's word for it, that when he was describing the mythical Adonis
as the subject of his poem, the object he had in view was the young friend
and patron whom he addresses in the Sonnets. In Sonnet 53 he tells
us that he has made or is then making the picture of Adonis as the
likeness of his friend—
"Describe Adonis and the Counterfeit
Is poorly imitated after you;
On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set,
And you in Grecian tires are painted new."
He proves it by introducing Adonis in company with Helen as a substitute
for Paris, and thus goes out of his way once more to violate the Classical
Unities. He further proves the identity of Adonis with Southampton
in his dedication of the poem. Moreover, we find the argument of the
earliest Sonnets is publicly reproduced in the poem promised to and
written for the Earl of Southampton. It will not be necessary for me
to run the parallel all through; the reader can make the application of
the matter quoted,—which will also be found in the Sonnets.
"Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life."
"The tender Spring upon thy tempting lip
Shows thee unripe; yet mayst then well be tasted;
Make use of time, let no advantage slip;
Beauty within itself f should not be wasted.
Fair flowers that are not gathered in their
Rot and consume themselves in little time."
"Is thine own heart to thine own face affected?
Can thy right hand seize love upon lice left?
Then woo thyself, be of thyself rejected,
Steal thine own freedom, and complain
Narcissus so himself himself forsook,
And died to kiss his shadow in the brook."
"Torches are made to light, jewels to wear,
Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use,
Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear;
Things growing to themselves are growth's
Seeds spring from seeds, and beauty breedeth
Thou wast begot,—to get it is thy duty.
"Upon the earth's increase why shouldst thou
Unless the earth with thy increase be fed?
By law of Nature thou art bound to breed,
That thine may live, when thou thyself art
And so in spite of death thou dost survive,
In that thy likeness still is left alive."
Adonis, 2, 22, 27, 28, 29.
Now it is in strict accordance with forthcoming evidence to infer that the
same thoughts or expressions would appear first in the private Sonnets
before being repeated in print, and would NOT be
repeated privately after they were published! Thus we argue that
when we find the line in Sonnet 78, "Thine eyes that taught the Dumb on
high to sing," repeated or echoed in the Venus and Adonis as "Thine
eyes that taught all other eyes to see," Stanza 159, and when the
line, "Hearing you praised I say 'tis so," Sonnet 85, is echoed in
Stanza 142, "She says 'tis so; they answer all 'tis so," it tends
to show that Adonis was first described in the Sonnets, which indeed is no
more than what Shakspeare asserts. So much of the Poet's argument as
could possibly be repeated from the Sonnets under the changed
circumstances has been re-applied in the poem, where it does not
particularly apply! Such a sustained plea on behalf of posterity
was by no means necessary for a Goddess, and the object was far too remote
to serve her turn immediately. The truth of the matter is that
Shakspeare is still wooing his friend on the subject of marriage by the
enticing mouthpiece of Venus. The argument for procreation and
future progeny is his, far more than hers! Hence the repetition from
the Sonnets in which he makes his personal appeal on behalf of wedlock.
Neither the Poet nor the world in general could be greatly interested in
the posterity of the mythical Venus and Adonis, and Shakspeare is speaking
from behind the mask in a way that has not hitherto been suspected.
Thus the Adonis of the poem drawn from the life was
previously portrayed in the Sonnets as the rose-cheeked Boy who possessed
the beauty of both sexes, which could be celebrated as combining the
graces of Adonis and the charms of Helen, on account of his youth and his
comeliness. Here then we find in the Sonnets an earlier form of the
Venus and Adonis, indeed, the various odd Sonnets on this subject
suggest that the writer once thought of treating it in the Sonnet Stanza.
Some of my critics have instanced the 20th Sonnet as an
obstacle in the way of a dramatic reading, and as furnishing indubitable
proof that Shakspeare's personal feeling for his young friend was erotic
enough to go any lengths in the confusion of imagery proper to the
different sexes. But it is the greatest obstacles that become the
surest stepping-stones when conquered and turned to account by a true
reading. Much turns on a KEY-SONNET like this,
because, until it is rightly read, one misinterpretation can only be
wedded to another. Chapman has described "a youth so sweet of face
that many thought him of the female race." Marlowe says of Leander,
"Some swore he was a maid in man's attire,
For in his looks were all that men desire."
And this is how
Shakspeare portrays his young friend, of whom he says,
"A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the Master-Mistress of my passion."
If we accept this at its current Victorian value, "my passion" would mean
the personal feeling I have for you, which would put us directly on the
wrong track. That rendering is quite common and has been built upon,
but it is demonstrably false. The modern sense of "my passion" only
leads us to an Elizabethan pitfall that awaits the unwary. To
explain, very briefly. In the year 1582 Thomas Watson published his
EKATOMΠAΘIA, or the Passionate Centurie of Love. 
The work consisted of 100 Sonnets, which are called "Passions" all
through it! From this we learn that Sonnets or Poems and
Passions were synonymous. We find they are so in the
Midsummer Night's Dream, where the two ditties are termed the
"Passions" of Pyramus and Thisbe. It maybe noticed en passant
that Shakspeare was designated "Watson's heir" by W. C. (1595) in an
allusion to his Adonis. Thus the "passion" of Shakspeare is not an
affair of the heart, not the personal affection for his young friend,
whether amatory, idolatrous, Platonic, or Aretinish, and those who have
thought it was so have been going farther and farther astray all the time.
His passion here is the theme on which he writes, the love-poem in
Sonnet-form that he is engaged upon at the time, and of which, as we now
see, the young friend is the subject far more than the object.
So far from there being any confusion of gender in the imagery, the Sonnet
was written expressly to bring out the difference of sex in the concluding
lines. Perhaps the use of the words "subject" and "object" could
not be better illustrated than by the distinction they enable us to make
in thus disinterring Shakspeare's meaning! Southampton is here the
subject of the poetic passion, not the object of any passion
in our modern sense. He is the Master-Mistress of the poet's
passion, not of the man's; and so the effeminacy of the woman-like love in
wooing a male friend vanishes from the Sonnets like a vapour that
concealed the true interpretation of the Elizabethan meaning. The
correct reading is very important, because the wrong one has been so
fertile in false inference, and because the right one sets us half-way on
the road to the dramatic treatment that is applied in later Sonnets.
Here then the Adonis of real life was the "Master-Mistress"
of the Poet's passion or theme in Sonnet-form, almost as ideally as the
Greek Adonis was the subject or "Passion" in the published Love-poem;
which consideration will serve to give another and a semi-dramatic aspect
to the Sonnets so written.
There are still other ways of adding to the force of this
demonstration that Southampton was Shakspeare's original for Adonis, and
the personal Suggester of the Sonnets which were written before the
publication of the poem.
Mr. Knight, in proof that the earlier series of these Sonnets
must have been written before William Herbert was old enough to be a
"begetter," has instanced a line, first pointed out by Steevens, which was
printed in a play attributed, with some poetic warrant, to Shakspeare,
entitled The Reign of King Edward III. The same line occurs
in Sonnet 94:—
"Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds."
This drama was published in 1596, after it had been sundry times played.
It is presumable that the line was first used in the Sonnet privately,
before it appeared in the play, because the poetic notions of the Sonnet,
as well as the personal and private friendship, would demand the more
fastidious taste. If so, this was one of the Sonnets in which
William Herbert could not have been addressed, seeing that he did not live
in London until two years later.
According to the statement in Sonnet 104, the Poet had known
his young friend three years when that was written, and as two Sonnets
which come later appeared in print in 1599, it follows that the writer
must have known his young friend at least as early as the year 1596, or,
two years before the date when Herbert, first came to live in London!
But there is no need to emphasize a single one or several
illustrations where we shall find so many. In this instance the
thought is Shakspeare's own twice over. He had no need to borrow it
from the "base subject" of a public play to enrich a private Sonnet. The
line appears in Sonnet 94—
"The Summer's flower is to the Summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die;
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds."
And he had
already written in Sonnet 69—
"Then (churls) their thoughts, although their eyes were
To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds;
But why thy odour matcheth not thy show,
The solve is this, that thou dost common grow."
are the instances of likeness in thought and image betwixt these Sonnets
and certain of the early Plays as to make it almost a matter of
indifference whether the lines were used first in the Play or the Sonnet,
although one can have no doubt that as a point of literary etiquette the
Sonnet would have first choice. A close examination of both shows
that these resemblances and repetitions occur most palpably and numerously
in dramas and Sonnets which I take to have been composed from 1590 to
1597; they most strongly suggest, if they do not prove, both Sonnets and
Plays to have been written about the same period, having the same dress of
his mind, the composition perhaps running parallel at times.
As we have seen, some of the Sonnets were written before the
two Poems; and there is no reason to question the conclusion that the
Sonnets were considered the choicest, and would first contain the thought
or image or expression before it was made public in the Plays. Chief
of the Plays are the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost, A
Midsummer Night's Dream, and Romeo and Juliet. First, we
perceive an indefinable likeness in tone and mental tint, which is yet
recognizable, as are the flowers of the same season. In Shakspeare's
work, so great is the unity of feeling as it is seen pervading a whole
play, that whatsoever was going on below would give visible signs on the
surface, whether he was working at a drama or a Sonnet. His work is
so much of a natural product that it takes on the colour of the season and
the environment, just as certain animals and birds are coloured in
accordance with their surroundings, the tone of which is reflected in the
hues of feather and tints of fur.
In the earlier Sonnets, and in the above-named Plays, certain
ideas and figures continually appear and reappear. We might call
them by name, as the conceit concerning painting, concerning substance and
shadow, the war of roses in the red and white of a lady's cheek, the
pattern or map-idea, the idea of the antique world in opposition to the
tender transciency of youth, the images of spring used as emblems of
mortality, the idea of engraving on a tablet of steel, the canker in the
bud, the distilling of roses to preserve their sweets, the cloud-kissing
hill, and the hill-kissing sun with golden face—and many others which
were the poet's early stock of imagery, the frequent use of which shows
that it was yet the spring-time of his creative powers. But to pass
from this indefiniteness to the actual likeness, here are a few passages
from the Sonnets compared with the Plays and Poems.
Even so my sun one early morn did shine
With all-triumphant splendour on my brow;
But, out, alack! he was but one hour mine,
The region-cloud hath masked him from me
Which by and by black night doth take
For shame deny that thou bear'st love to
Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
And yet, methinks, I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or season's quality:
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive. (14)
To witness duty, not to show my wit. (26)
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate,
Which to repair should be thy chief desire. (10)
I never saw that you did painting need,
And therefore to your fair no painting set. (63)
So is it not with me as with that Muse
Stirred with a painted beauty to his verse. (21)
Let them say more that like of hearsay well,
I will not praise that purpose not to sell. (21)
Painting my age with beauty of thy days.
But from thine eyes this knowledge I derive. (14)
O how this Spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away.
Two Gentlemen of Verona,
They do not love that do not show their love.
Two Gen. Ver.,
I read your fortune in your eye.
Two Gen. Ver., II. iv.
My duty will I boast of, nothing else.
Two Gen. Ver.,
O thou, that dost inhabit in my breast,
Leave not the mansion so long tenantless,
Lest, growing ruinous, the building fall,
And leave no memory of what it was.
Repair me with thy presence, Silvia.
Two Gen. Ver., V. iv.
Needs not the painted flourish of your praise.
Love's Labour's Lost, II. i.
Fie, painted Rhetoric! O she needs it not;
To things of sale a seller's praise belongs,—
She passes praise.—L. L. L., IV. iii.
Beauty doth varnish age as if new-born.
L. L. L., IV, iii.
From women's eyes this doctrine I derive.
L. L. L., IV. iii.
Thy end is Truth's and Beauty's doom and date.
(See also Sonnet 20.)
Look in thy mother's glass.
Dear my love, you know
You had a Father; let your son say so. (13)
For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear.
Thy unused beauty must be tombed with
More lovely than a man!
Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life.
Venus and Adonis., 2.
The flowers are sweet, their colours fresh and
But true, sweet beauty lived and died with
V. and A., 180.
Art thou a woman's son and canst not feel
What 'tis to love?—V. and A, 34.
Oh, had thy mother borne so hard a mind
She had not brought forth thee.—V. and A., 34.
Rich preys make true men thieves.
V. and A., 121.
What is thy body but a swallowing grave?
V. and, A., 127.
Unthrifty loveliness! why dost thou spend
Upon thyself thy beauty's legacy?
Profitless usurer. (4)
Hearing you praised, I say 'tis so. (85)
Thine eyes that taught the dumb on high to
Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Sometime all full with feasting on your sight,
And by and by clean starvèd for a look. (75)
For Slander's mark was ever yet the fair. (70)
Thou art thy Mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime. (3)
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
Even so my sun. (33)
Gold that's put to use more gold begets.
V. and A., 128.
She says 'tis so; they answer all 'tis so!
V. and A., 142.
Thine eyes that taught all other eyes to see.
V. and A., 159.
Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
From thievish ears, because it is his own.
But poorly rich, so wanteth in his store
That, cloyed with much, he pineth still for more.—
Lucrece, 5 and 14.
For greatest scandal waits on greatest state.
Poor broken glass, I often did behold
In thy sweet semblance my old age new-born.
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world.
Henry IV., I. ii.
Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare. (52)
Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still;
The better angel is a man right fair;
The worser spirit a woman coloured ill;
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil;
Wooing his purity with her foul pride. (144)
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought. (30)
And moan th' expense of many a vanished
When I perhaps compounded am with clay. (71)
Sweet Roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours
Prison my heart in thy steel bosom's ward;
Whoe'er keeps me, let my heart be his guard. (133)
That is my home of love; if I have ranged,
Like him that travels, I return again. (109)
I do forgive thy robbery, gentle Thief,
Although thou steal thee all my poverty. (40)
That sweet Thief which sourly robs from me. (35)
So my state,
Seldom but sumptuous, showed like a feast,
And won by rareness such solemnity.
Henry IV., III. ii.
You follow the young prince up and down like his
II. Henry IV., I. ii.
There is a good angel about him, but the devil
outbids him too.—Pt.
II. Henry IV., II. iv.
You do draw my spirits from me
With new lamenting ancient oversights.
Henry IV., II. ii.
Only compound me with forgotten dust.
Henry IV., IV. iv.
Earthlier happy is the Rose distilled,
Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn,
Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.
Midsummer Night's Dream, I. i.
Transparent Helen, Nature shows her art
That through thy bosom makes me see my heart.—
M. N. D., II. ii.
My heart with her but as guest-wise sojourned,
And now to Helen it is home returned. M.N.D.,III.
O me; you Juggler! you Canker-blossom!
You Thief of Love! What, have you come by night
And stolen my Love's heart from him?
M. N. D., III. ii.
When sparkling stars twire not thou gild'st
the even. (28)
Then can no horse with my desire keep pace. (51)
Then look I death my days should expiate.
To change your day of youth to sullied night. (15)
Truth and Beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert.
Or else of thee this I prognosticate,
Thy end is Truth's and Beauty's doom and date. (14)
And tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding.
My soul's imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face
There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
Was it the proud full sail of his great verse
That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew? (86)
But, ah! thought kills me that I am not
Oh, what a mansion have those vices got
Which for their habitation chose out thee.
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make
How would thy shadow's form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
How would—I say—mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day. (43)
Fair Helena, who more engilds the night
Than all you fiery oes and eyes of light.
M. N. D., III, ii.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
Romeo and Juliet, I. v.
My legs can keep no pace with my desires.
M. N. D., IV. ii.
Make haste, the hour of death is expiate.
King Richard III., III. iii.
Hath dimmed your infant morn to aged night.
K. R. III., IV. iv.
Oh, she is rich in beauty, only poor
That when she dies with beauty dies her store.
Then she bath sworn that she will still live chaste?
She hath, and in that sparing makes huge waste.
For Beauty starved with her severity,
Cuts Beauty off from all posterity.
Romeo and Juliet, I. i.
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night,
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear.
Rom. and Ju., I. ii.
Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Then twenty of their swords.
Rom. and Ju., II. ii.
Nor aught so good but, strained from that fair use,
Revolts from true birth stumbling on abuse;
Virtue itself turns vice being misapplied.
Rom, and Ju., II. iii.
The Earth, that's Nature's mother, is her tomb,
What is her burying grave, that is her womb.
Rom. and Ju., II. iii.
Love's Heralds should be Thoughts.
Rom. and Ju., II. v.
Oh, that deceit should dwell in such a palace!
Rom. and Ju., III, ii.
I dreamt my lady came and found me dead;
(Strange dream! that gives a dead man leave to
Ah me! how sweet is love itself possessed
When but love's shadows are so rich in joy.
Rom. and Ju., V. i.
From limits far remote where thou dost stay. (44)
But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that so much of earth and water wrought. (44)
How like Eve's Apple doth thy beauty grow,
If thy sweet virtue answer not thy show. (93)
Let those who are in favour with their stars,
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom Fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlooked-for joy in that I
Then happy I, that love and am beloved,
Where I may not remove, nor be removed. (25)
Where wasteful time debateth with decay. (15)
Thou by thy dial's shady stealth may'st know,
Time's thievish progress to eternity. (77)
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say,
The perfect ceremony of love's rite,
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay,
O'ercharged with burden of mine own love's might;
O let my books be then the eloquence. (23)
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom. (116)
Thy gifts, thy tables, are within my brain
Full charactered with lasting memory;
Which shall above that idle rank remain
Beyond all date, even to eternity:
Or at the least so long as brain and heart
Have faculty by nature to subsist. (122)
With mine own weakness being best acquainted
Upon thy part I can set down a story
Of faults concealed wherein I am attainted. (88)
For what care I who calls me ill or well,
So you o'er-green my bad, my good allow;
My adder's sense
To Critic and to Flatterer stopped are. (112)
I must attend Time's leisure. (44)
Thou dost love her because thou know'st I love
farthest limit of my embassy.
King John, I. i.
Large lengths of seas and shores
Between my father and my mother lay.
A goodly apple rotten at the heart;
Oh, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
Merchant of Venice, I. iii.
Thoughts tending to content, flatter themselves
That they are not the first of fortune's slaves,
And in this thought they find a kind of ease.
Richard II., V. v.
Nature and sickness
Debate it at their leisure.
All's Well that Ends Well, I. ii.
The Pilot's glass
Hath told the thievish minutes how they pass.
A. W., II. i.
My lord will go away to-night;
A very serious business calls on him,
The great prerogative and rite of love,
Which, as your due time claims, he doth acknowledge,
But puts it off by a compelled restraint.
A. W., II. iv.
That it may stand till the perpetual doom.
Merry Wives, V. v.
From the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain.
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. —Hamlet, I. v.
I could accuse me of such things, that it
were better my mother had not borne me.
Ham., III. i.
The censure of which one, must, in your
a whole theatre of others.
Ham., III. ii.
I shall attend your leisure.
Measure far Measure, IV. i.
Let me love him for that, and do you love him
because I do.—As I You Like It, I. iii.
easy might I from myself depart
As from my soul which in thy breast doth lie.
Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour
Lose all and more by paying too much rent?
For compound sweet foregoing simple savour;
Pitiful thrivers in their gazing spent!
No! let me be obsequious in thy heart,
And take then my oblation, poor but free.
Or whether doth my mind, being crowned with you,
Drink up the Monarch's plague, this flattery;
Or whether shall I say mine eye saith true?
'Tis flattery in my seeing.
Or, on my frailties why are frailer spies?
So now I have confessed that he is thine,
And I myself am mortgaged to thy will.
Thy dial will show thee how thy precious minutes
How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame.
O what a mansion have those vices got
Which for their habitation chose out thee!
Where Beauty's veil doth cover every blot,
And all things turn to fair that eyes can see.
Love's not love
That alters when it alteration finds.
The mortal moon bath her eclipse endured.
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Join her hand with his
Whose heart within her bosom is.
A. Y. L., V. iv.
Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave
That, doting on his own obsequious bondage,
Wears out his time. Others there are
Who trimmed in forms and visages of duty,
Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves.
Othello, I. i.
I fear to find
Mine eye too great a flatterer for my mind.
Twelfth Night, I. v.
Alas! our frailty is the cause, not we.
T. N., II. ii.
And he is yours, and his must needs be yours;
Your servant's servant is your servant, madam!
T.N., III. i.
The clock upbraids me with the waste of time.
T. N., III. i.
But O, how vile an Idol proves this God!
Thou hast, Sebastian, done good feature shame.
In nature there's no blemish but the mind,
None can be called deformed but the unkind;
Virtue is beauty; but the beauteous evil
Are empty trunks o'erflourished by the Devil.
T. N. III. iv.
Love's not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from the entire point.—King Lear, I. i.
Alack, our terrene moon is now eclipsed.
Antony and Cleopatra, III. ii.
Prove this a prosperous day, the three-nooked
world shall bear the olive freely.
Antony and Cleopatra, IV. vi.
This comparison shows the uselessness of placing the Sonnets en gros
between Romeo and Juliet and Part III. of King Henry VI., as
is done in the Leopold Shakspeare, and the folly of limiting them, as Mr.
Tyler would, to the years 1598-1601.
These extracts present a panorama of the Poet's progress.
All along the Sonnets are the seed-bed of thoughts and expressions
afterwards sown in the Dramas during at least a dozen years. The
order observed is, roughly, that of the Dramas, not of the Sonnets.
According to the poetic data now adduced, this comparative
criterion tells us that a large number of the Sonnets were produced either
before or else they belong to the time of the Two Gentlemen of Verona,
Love's Labour's Lost, and other of the early Plays. No one who
is intimately acquainted with Shakspeare will deny or doubt that this
diagnosis demonstrates the period of certain Sonnets and Plays to have
been the same, even though they may not share in my certitude of the
particular Sonnets being still earlier than the Poems and Plays.
Fertile and lavish as he was, Shakspeare is prone to repeat
himself. Moreover, he wrote with unparalleled rapidity, and work
done in Play or Sonnets at a heat would and does leave its mark of the
time on both. It is so in his Plays, and the same law must apply to
the Poems and Sonnets.
These, however, are not merely flowers of the same season;
they are frequently the same flowers transferred from the Sonnets to the
Plays. For we may be certain sure that such matter as we find in
Venus and Adonis would not be presented first to Southampton in a
printed poem, and afterwards repeated and re-presented to him privately in
the Sonnets! The first-fruits of the Poet's thought and personal
affection would naturally and necessarily be offered in the private work
which he had to do; whereas, according to the chronology of Mr.
Tyler and other Herbertists, Shakspeare must have gone on repeating
himself in the Sonnets from his public Plays all along the line of his
Thus the Sonnets themselves supply ample proof in various
kinds of evidence, and in a regular sequence, that a large number of them
were written too early for William Herbert to have been their "begetter,"
or the friend who is the object of Shakspeare's affection. Many of
them were written by the Poet's "Pupil Pen" before he had ventured to
appear in public: therefore, before he printed in 1593. On other
grounds it will be shown, from internal evidence, that another group was
written before the death of Marlowe, in the same year. Consequently,
these must belong to the "Sonnets among his private friends," which were
known to Meres in 1598; and, as William Herbert did not come to live in
London till the year 1598,  and was then only
eighteen years of age, he cannot be the person addressed in these Sonnets
during a number of years previously!
There could be no kind of reason why Shakspeare should write
a series of Sonnets for the purpose of urging a boy of thirteen, or it may
be of ten or eleven years of age, to get married immediately! No reason
why this impubescent youth should have been addressed by the man
Shakspeare with pathetic reproaches for not entering the state of
matrimony! He is letting his ancestral "house fall to decay," which
"Husbandry in honour might uphold"—he is
"Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate,
Which to repair should be thy chief desire."
boy-begetter would be charged with "making a fanzine where abundance
lies"—he would be told to look in the glass and
"tell the face thou viewest,
Now is the time
that face should form another;
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage, of thy husbandry? "
"Now stand you on the top of happy hours;
And many maiden-gardens yet unset
With virtuous wish would bear your living flowers."
And this is
assumed without evidence or question to be written by Shakspeare to a lad
who could not have been over thirteen years old, and may have been only
ten, at the time the first Sonnets were composed; as we have the facts
under Shakspeare's own hand and warranty. This is a
demonstration not likely to be successfully assailed by my opponents if
they should ever dare to grapple with my argument.
At the outset of our inquiry, then, it is established that
William Herbert cannot be the man whom Shakspeare urged to marry, to whom
he dedicated eternal love; and to all who can fairly weigh the facts, it
must be just as evident that Henry Wriothesley was the patron and friend
whom our Poet loved, and by whom he was so much beloved.
Amongst the few precious personal relics of Shakspeare are
those two short prose epistles in which he inscribes his two poems to the
Earl of Southampton. They are remarkable revelations of his feeling
towards the Earl. The first is shaded with a delicate reserve, and
addressed to the patron; the second, printed one year afterwards,
glows out full-hearted in a dedication of personal love for the friend.
The difference is so great, and the growth of the friendship so rapid, as
to suggest that the Venus and Adonis may have been sent to the
Earl, or at least written, some time before it was printed.
The dedication runs thus:—
Right Honourable,—I know not how I shall offend in
dedicating my unpolished lines to your Lordship, nor how the world will
censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burthen:
only, if your Honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised,
and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with
some graver labour. But, if the first heir of my invention prove
deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather, and never after
ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I
leave it to your honourable survey, and your Honour to your heart's
content; which I wish may always answer your own wish, and the world's
Your Honour's in all duty,
Now, as our Poet had distinctly promised in Sonnet 26, that when he was
ready to appear in print and put worthy apparel on his "tattered loving,"
he would then dare to boast how much he loved his patron and friend, and
show his head, where he might be proved, we cannot but conclude that the
dedication to the Venus and Adonis is in part fulfilment of the
intentions expressed in that Sonnet. In fact we see the Sonnet was
as much a private dedication of the Poet's first poem, as this epistle was
afterwards the public one, and know that in it he as much promised the
first poem, as in the prose inscription he promises the future Lucrece,
when he vows to take advantage of all idle hours till he has honoured the
Earl with some graver labour. Therefore, the person who was
privately addressed in "written embassage" as the Lord of Shakspeare's
love, must be one with him whom the Poet afterwards publicly ventured to
address as such, in fulfilment of intentions already recorded. The
feeling of the earliest Sonnets is exactly that of this first public
inscription; it is reticent and noticeably modest, whilst in each there is
an expression that gives the same personal image. "Your honour's in all
duty" echoes the voice of the Sonnets which were sent to "Witness
Duty." In the first Dedication the Poet hopes that his young
patron may answer to the "World's hopeful expectation," and in the
first of all the Sonnets this Lord of Shakspeare's love is saluted as "the
world's fresh ornament and Only Herald to the gaudy Spring." In
both we have Hope a-tiptoe at gaze on this new wonder of youth and beauty,
this freshest blossom of noble blood.
In the nest year, 1594, Shakspeare dedicated his poem
of Lucrece to the Earl of Southampton as follows:—
The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end,
whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety.
The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my
untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done
is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have devoted
yours.  Were my worth, greater my ditty would
show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship,
to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with happiness.
Your Lordship's in all duty,
Again the dedication echoes the 26th Sonnet. "The warrant I have of
your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines," and
"were my worth greater, my duty would show greater," are the prose of the
previous words, "to witness duty, not to show my wit." Then we have
the "lord of our Poet's love," to whom his service was vowed, his duty
bound in "vassalage," identified in the person of Lord Southampton,
to whom Shakspeare is in duty bound, as in the Sonnet which says, "thy
merit hath my duty strongly knit;" and to this lord the Poet has
sent his "Books" in private, and now publicly dedicated all that he has
done, and all that he has to do. Thus we have it recorded in 1591,
by Shakspeare himself, that the relationship of Poet and patron was so
close, the friendship had so far ripened, that Shakspeare could dedicate
"love without end," and he uses these never-to-be-forgotten words: "What
I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have
devoted yours." That is, the Earl of Southampton is proclaimed to be
the lord of our Poet's love, the man to whom he is bound, and the patron
for whom be has hitherto written, and for whom, as is understood betwixt
them, he has yet to write. "What I have to do is yours"—so there is
work in hand—"being part as you are in all that my duty and love have
devoted to your service." What work in hand devoted to
Southampton can this be, save the Sonnets which he was then composing?
Here is a promise made which was never fulfilled in any other shape.
As we have seen, he made a promise in the 26th Sonnet which he fulfilled
in 1593 with the Venus and Adonis. In his inscription to that
poem, he makes a further promise, this he carries out in dedicating the
Lucrece to the Earl of Southampton. In the second public
inscription, he speaks still more emphatically of work that he has to do
for the Earl, not like a poet addressing a patron, but as a familiar
friend alluding to something only known amongst friends. It is a
public promise respecting work that has a private history; its precise
speciality has never yet been fathomed, although something marked in the
meaning has been felt; it could only have had fulfilment in the Sonnets,
and that in a particular way.
The Sonnets themselves respond to the dedications. They
show that Shakspeare was in duty bound to write and was expected to write
OF and FOR his friend,
who in Sonnet 83 has reproached him for not writing when he has been
remiss. The Poet says,
"This silence for my sin you did id impute."
Again, in Sonnet 100, lie apologizes for being so long silent. He
reproaches his Muse with her forgetfulness, and bids her
"Sing to the ear that doth thy Lays esteem."
This then was what the Poet had to do, and he lets us know plainly
enough that he is doing it in writing his Sonnets to and for Southampton.
Hence he calls these poems the "Barren tender of a Poet's debt." The
debt contracted with the public as witness, in the Dedication to
Lucrece, is not only acknowledged privately in the Sonnets, we see
him in the act of writing it off in that mode of fulfilling his promise
and paying his debt.
As the Venus and Adonis was printed in 1593, we might
safely assume that the first Sonnets, inclusive of the 26th, were not
written later than the year 1591 or 1592. But it may have been still
earlier. Tom Nash in his Anatomic of Absurdity affords us good
ground for thinking that Shakspeare had been heard of as a writer of
Sonnets and Songs as early as the year 1590. He refers to a
playwright, and sneers at his "Country grammar knowledge." He
damns the audacity of this fellow who is setting up as a poet and is
already being patronized, to the knowledge and disgust of Nash, as a
writer of Sonnets! This would-be Poet he treats as one of a very low
kind in the following tirade:
"What will they not feign for gain?
Hence come our babbling ballets and our newfound Songs and Sonnets which
every red-nose fiddler hath at his fingers' end, and every ignorant
all-knight breathes forth over the pot as soon as his brain waxeth hot. .
. . . Mere it that the infamy of their ignorance did redound only upon
themselves, I could be content to apply my speech otherwise than to their
Apuleyan ears; but sith they obtain the name of our English poets, and
thereby make men think more basely of the wits of the country, I cannot
but turn them out of their counterfeit livery, and brand them on the
forehead, that all men may know their falsehood. Well may that
saying of Campanus be applied to our English poets:—'They make poetry an
occupation; lying is their living, and fables are their moveables.' . . .
. . . . It makes the learned sort to be silent, when, as they see,
unlearned sots are so insolent. These bussards think knowledge a
burthen, topping it before they have half tunned it, venting it
before they have filled it, in whom that saying of the orator is verified,
Aide ad dicendum quam ad cognoscendum veniunt. They come to speak before
they come to know. They contemn Arts as unprofitable, contenting
themselves with a little country grammar knowledge, God wote.
Such kind of poets were they that Plato excluded from his
Commonwealth; and amiss it were not if these, which meddle with the art
they know not, were bequeathed to Bridewell, there to learn a new
occupation; so those rude rithmours, with their jarring verse, alienate
all men's mindes from delighting in number's excellence, which they have
so defaced, that we may well exclaime with the poet, Quantum mutatus ab
Nash wants to class this new poet with the old Minstrels, who were but
wandering rogues and vagabonds in the eye of the law. We have the
Shakspearian echo to this complaint in Love's Labour's Lost,
"Tush! none but minstrels like of Sonneting," at the very time when the
King and his courtiers have all turned Sonneteers.
It is quite in keeping with our knowledge of Shakspeare that
he should have been recognized thus early by Nash as the writer of Songs
and Sonnets. His exquisite lyrical faculty is shown by the song to
Sylvia in the Two Gentlemen of Verona. In Love's Labour's
Lost and the Midsummer Night's Dream it is already in full
flower. The collection of his Songs and Sonnets in the Passionate
Pilgrim was based upon his reputation as a lyrist. Some of these
were very early work.
In his Epistle to Greene's Menaphon Nash sneers at the
ambitious but futile efforts of "those that never were gowned in the
University," and nothing could have made him feel worse than to hear that
this ignoramus with no college credentials had found favour as a poet with
the young Earl of Southampton, the artful man of art being preferred to
the men of Arts, the unlearned to the Learned; a fellow in "counterfeit
livery," who would feign anything for gain, being employed to write
Sonnets and honoured with the patronage which belonged by right to the
educated and authorized academical flunkey. This would be all the
more galling and unendurable as Nash and Southampton were both Cambridge
men, and both of St. John's College.  Nash
passed B.A. in 1585, and was expelled some time in 1587 for the part he
took in the play entitled Terminus et non Terminus. The Earl
of Southampton was admitted Dec. 11, 1585, and passed B.A. June 6, 1589.
This early recognition of the Upstart Player, whose education was limited
to a Country Grammar School, as a writer of Sonnets, is not to be faced by
the Brownites and Herbertists. It is not to be thought of that
Shakspeare should have been known as a Sonneteer when Herbert was but ten
years old, consequently this recognition by Nash is unanimously ignored by
them, as it is by Mr. Furnivall in his lengthy Introduction to the Leopold
This Player-poet aimed at by Nash is as certainly Shakspeare
as is the "Shakscene" denounced later by Greene; and this is one of the
earliest and most important of all the contemporary notices of the rising
man. Nash's denunciation applies to a playwright who is recognized
as being the author of Sonnets, and it follows that if the man of
"Country Grammar knowledge" is Shakspeare, then Shakspeare had been
heard of in the year 1590 as a writer of Sonnets. Therefore the
earliest Sonnets composed for Southampton may have been begun in 1590.
There is nothing opposed to this in the dates. Henry Wriothesley was
born in the year 1573. He came to London in June 1589, and entered
himself as member of Gray's Inn when he was sixteen years of age.
Nor is there any difficulty in the way of an early meeting between him and
Shakspeare. The young Earl's fondness for Plays is well known.
Shakspeare's great affection and love for him were proclaimed to all the
world in his prose dedications. And Southampton's step-father, Sir
Thomas Heneage, was then Treasurer of the Chamber and Vice-Chamberlain of
Her Majesty's Household, as well as Captain of the Guard to the Queen.
Thus Southampton's immediate access to players and playwrights would be
made easy on account of his stepfather's official relationship to them,
and his own influence in their favour would be eagerly sought. In
1589 Southampton was travelling abroad, but was back again in the year
following. He was then seventeen years old, and in this year Nash
makes his gird at the playwright who was the author of "new-found Songs
and Sonnets," therefore the newly-discovered Sonneteer who is identified
by his "Country Grammar knowledge" as Shakspeare.
The youth whom the Poet first saw in all his semi-feminine
freshness of the proverbial "sweet seventeen," and afterwards celebrated
as a "sweet boy," a "lovely boy," a "beauteous and lovely youth," a
pattern for rather than a copy of his Adonis, corresponds perfectly with
Southampton in his seventeenth year. If we take the year 1590 for
the first group of Sonnets, we shall find the young Earl of Southampton's
age precisely reckoned up in Sonnet 16,
" Now stand you on the top of happy hours,"
which shows us that the youth has sprung lightly up the ladder of his
life, and now stands on the last golden round of boyhood. The Earl
of Southampton was born October 6th, 1573, consequently in 1590 he was
seventeen years of age.
The very first Sonnet addresses one who is the "world's fresh
ornament,"—that is, the budding favourite at Court, the fresh grace of its
circle, the latest representative there of youthful spring; "the
Expectancy and rose of the fair State!" Southampton was, in truth,
the "Child of State," under the special protection of the Queen. He
was recommended to Her Majesty's notice and care by the loss of his father
at so early an age, and by the quiet service of his step-father, who was
an old servant of Elizabeth's, as well as favoured with the best word of
his guardian, Burleigh, who at one time hoped to bring about a marriage
betwixt Southampton and his own grand-daughter. We shall see,
further, that such was his place in Her Majesty's regards, that an
endeavour was made by Sir Fulke Greville and others, to get the Earl of
Southampton installed as royal favourite in the stead of Essex.
"There was a time," says Sir Henry Wotton, 
sometime secretary to the Earl of Essex, "when Sir Fulke Greville (Lord
Brook), a man intrinsically with him (Essex), or at the least, admitted to
his melancholy hours, either belike espying some weariness in the Queen,
or perhaps (with little change of the word, though more in the danger),
some wariness towards him, and working upon the present matter (as he was
dexterous and close), had almost superinduced into favour the Earl of
Southampton, which yet being timely discovered, my Lord of Essex chose to
evaporate his thoughts in a Sonnet (being his common way), to be sung
before the Queen (as it was) by one Hales, in whose voice she took some
pleasure; whereof the couplet, methinks, had as much of the Hermit as of
the Poet." Wotton has not gone quite to the root of the affair; the
real ground on which the motion of Sir Fulke Greville was made, was a
strong feeling of personal favour on the part of Her Majesty towards the
young Earl of Southampton; this to some extent is implied in the fact
recorded, but there was more in it than Wotton had seen from the one side.
It is difficult to define what this royal favour meant, or what was the
nature of Her Majesty's affection, but it most assuredly existed, and was
shown, and Essex manifested his jealousy of it, as in the cases of
Southampton, Mountjoy, and others. Perhaps it was an old maid's
passion for her puppies!
It does not in the least help to fathom the secret of this
Favouriteship, through which Hatton, Leicester, and Essex passed; for
which Southampton was proposed, and to which honour Herbert might have
aspired if he would, but was out-distanced by "young Carey," to point to
the age of the Queen and the youth of the young nobles. Many aged
persons have had extremely youthful tastes. It was a characteristic
of the Tudor tooth. Besides, the Queen prided herself on not looking
or growing old as other women did. And according to unsuspected
contemporary testimony, she must have borne her years very youthfully.
Jacob Rathgeb, who wrote the story of Duke Frederick of Wirtemburgh, in
England as seen by Foreigners, saw her Majesty in her fifty-ninth
year, and, thinking she was sixty-seven at the time, he records that,
although she had borne the heavy burthen of ruling a kingdom for
thirty-four years, she need not indeed—to judge both from her person and
appearance—yield much to a young girl of sixteen!
In judging of Elizabeth's character, we must remember that
some of her richest, most vital feelings had no proper sphere of action,
though their motion was not necessarily improper. She did not live
the married life, and Nature sometimes plays tricks when the vestal fires
are fed by the animal passions, that are thus covered up, but all aglow;
these will give an added warmth to the imagination, a sparkle to the eye,
and a youth to the affections in the later years of life, such as may
easily be misinterpreted.
My chief interest at present in the subject mooted, is in
relation to the Earl of Southampton and Elizabeth Vernon, the Queen's
cousin; and her Majesty's persistent opposition to their marriage.
It is not my object to bedaub the portrait of Gloriana with a
coating of lampblack, but I have lost a good deal of the mental glamour
created by Froude and Kingsley, and am at liberty to maintain that it is
not necessary to possess a monkish imagination not to be able to chime in
with Fuller's emphatic cry of "Virginissima," where he calls
Elizabeth when living, the first Maid on Earth, and when dead, the
second in heaven.
Let me not raise any scandal against Elizabeth, when,
supported by the suggestive hint of Wotton, I conjecture that the
persistent opposition of the Queen to Southampton's marriage had in it a
personal feeling which, under certain circumstances, could find no other
expression than in thwarting the wedded happiness of others.
It is in this sense of the new favourite at Court, that I
"The World's fresh ornament
And only herald of the gaudy spring,"
and find in it another feature whereby we can identify the Earl of
Southampton as the person addressed.
A difficult passage in the 20th Sonnet may glance at this
favouriteship. Southampton is described as a "man in hue all
Hews in his controlling," and the word Hew is printed as a proper
noun and in italics. The Earl of Essex being first favourite at the
time when Southampton was set up as a rival for the Royal honour,
Shakspeare lauds his young friend as the "World's fresh ornament," and as
a man in hue whose hue is in some way superior to all other hues, and as
the "only herald of the gaudy Spring." Elizabeth chose her
favourites for their youthful favour. Southampton's complexion had
the hue of "rose-cheeked Adonis," and Shakspeare besought him to preserve
it all he could. In Sonnet 104 his rosiness is called "your sweet
hue." It has been conjectured that a name was being punned upon in
this emphasized line. I think so too. But it is not Hughes or
Hews as Tyrwhitt fancied. Nor is it Hughes the friend of Chapman.
It is EWES that was aimed at by the double
entendre, which leads us beyond the mere name to a person of
importance; for Ewe was a title of Essex! The Earldom was that of
"Essex and Ewe."
"A man in hue, all Ewes in his controlling," was as far as
Shakspeare could go in telling his friend that his comeliness and favour
were far superior to those of the favourite, and that these gave him the
upper hand. The word hue had also the meaning of a match for;
and here the hue of Southampton is more than a match for all other
hues. Such punning upon names was a common practice of the time, and
it had been done before on this very name with a variation by Peele in his
Polyhymnia. In describing the Earl of Essex, and in speaking
of his appearance,
"That from his armour borrowed such a light
As boughs of yew ( = Ewe) receive from shady stream,"
Peele was punning in precisely the same way that Shakspeare does on the
same name of the same person, only with him it is Yew = Ewe, whereas in
the Sonnet it is How = Ewe. The reader cannot fail to recognize in
this an early note of the "Secret Drama" of the Sonnets and the
identification of Shakspeare's "Private Friends."
Herbert came too late for any rivalry with "Essex and Ewe";
his rivalry was with "young Carey," a far later favourite.
Professor Dowden, in declaring and affirming against
Southampton being Shakspeare's young friend of the early Sonnets, has the
temerity to assert that Henry Wriothesley "was NOT
beautiful"; for which gratuitous assertion he had no warrant whatever.
He merely repeats without testing what Boaden had already said without
proof. The Professor further declares that Southampton bore "no
resemblance to his mother." But if this were a fact he had no
knowledge of it. Where is the portrait of the mother to determine
it? Or where is the fact recorded?
"Youngster," said the impecunious manager Elliston to the
author of Blackeyed Susan, "have you the confidence to lend me a
guinea?" "I have all the confidence in the world," said Jerrold,
"but I haven't got the guinea." So is it with the Brownites.
They have any amount of assertion, but not the needful facts. Professor
Dowden also says, "Wriothesley at an early age became the lover of
Elizabeth Vernon, needing therefore no entreaty to marry." But no
age is given; no dates are compared; no time defined for either the
Sonnets or the courtship—an omission not to be bridged over with a
Why, the Sonnets, as already shown, must have been begun as
early as 1590-1. They precede and promise the Dedication of
whatsoever Shakspeare is going to publish. They identify the living
original of Adonis With Southampton, and therefore as the young friend
addressed in the first Sonnets. Only twenty of them are devoted to
the marriage theme. And the earliest that we hear publicly of
Southampton's being in love with Elizabeth Vernon is in the year 1595—i.e.
two years after the public dedication of Venus and Adonis.
The Professor does not take the trouble to spin a "rope of sand," he only
throws a handful of dust in the eyes of his readers.
It does seem as if the sufferers from the Lues Browniana
would say anything. We way well ask with the Irish orator,
who inquired of his audience if they could trust a single word that was
said by a gentleman who were a waistcoat of that colour?
But to return to the first Sonnets. Next—and here we
feel an endearing touch of Shakspeare's nature—the youth addressed is so
evidently fatherless, that it seems strange it should have been
overlooked, until pointed out by the present writer. The plea all
through the first Sonnets is to one who is the sole prop of his house, and
the only bearer of the family name, the "tender heir" to his father's
"memory"; hence the IMPORTANCE OF MARRYING, on which
the Poet lays such stress. The first Sonnet opens with an allusion
to the early death of the Earl's father:—
"From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby Beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory!"
In Sonnet 10 he is charged with not inclining his ear to the advice given
to him that he should marry. Thus:—
"Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate,
Which to repair should be thy chief desire."
We find the same use made of the verb to ruinate in Henry VI.,
Part III. Act V.:—
"I will not ruinate my father's house."
And in the absence of Pericles one of the lords says—
"This kingdom is without a head,
Like goodly buildings left without a roof."
Of course the roof would not need repairing if it were not going to decay.
Accordingly we find that Southampton's father—head of the house—died in
1581, when the boy was not quite eight years old, and within four years of
that time his elder brother died, leaving him sole heir and
representative. Again in Sonnet 13 the Poet urges—
"Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold?"
Southampton being an only son left fatherless, he was the sole prop and
stay of the ancestral roof! Whereas William Herbert did not lose his
father until the year 1601, three years after the proclamation of
Shakspeare's Sonnets by Meres, and two years after the appearance of some
of them in the Passionate Pilgrim. Moreover William Herbert
had a brother, and never was the sole prop of his father's house!
The Poet's argument has no meaning in Herbert's case, early or late.
Although aware that the lines may not be confined to the
literal reading, I cannot help thinking that
the underlying fact was in the Poet's mind when in the same Sonnet he
"Dear my Love, you know
You had a father; let your son say so."
So the Countess in All's Well says, "This young gentleman had
a father; oh that 'had,' how sad a passage 'tis!" And the
lines in Sonnet 3 double the likelihood.
"Thou art thy Mother's glass, and she, in thee,
Calls back the lovely April of her prime."
There is no mention of his having a father; there is an allusion to his
having had one, and the mother is referred to as though she were the only
living parent. Shakspeare is forced to make use of the "mother's
glass," when the father, had there been one in existence, is demanded by
the hereditary nature of the argument. Also, it makes greatly in favour of
my reading that some of the arguments yet to be quoted, which were taken
from Sidney's prose, have been altered precisely to suit the case as now
put by me. The speaker in the Arcadia says, "Nature made you child
of a mother" (Philoclea's mother "Lettice Knollys" was then living), but
Shakspeare says, "you had a father" (the Earl of Southampton's
father being dead). The description is also differentiated by the "tender
heir," who, "as the riper should by time decease," might "bear his
memory," and by the house-roof going to decay, "which to repair" by
"husbandry in honour," should be the chief desire of the person addressed.
Thus, we have the Earl of Southampton identified as the lord of
Shakspeare's love, and the object of these early Sonnets, by his exact age
at the time when Shakspeare speaks of appearing soon in print, by his
position as the "fresh ornament" of the Court world and Court society, by
his rivalry with Hews, by his being the living model for "Adonis," and by
the fatherless condition which gave a weightier emphasis to the Poet's
argument for marriage, a more paternal tone of anxious interest to his
personal affection. To revert for a moment to the words of Meres, it
is obvious that the "private friends" of Shakspeare alluded to must have
had as much to do with the critic's mention as the Poet had; it would be
made on their account as much as on Shakspeare's. Who else could
prove the opinion recorded? And certainly there was no living patron
of literature at the time more likely to elicit the public reference of
Meres than Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, whose early love of
learning, says Camden, was as great as his later warlike renown.
On going a little further afield we may glean yet more
evidence that the Earl of Southampton is the object of these Sonnets.
"Thy poet," Shakspeare calls himself in Sonnet 79, and one of the Earl's
two poets in Sonnet 83. Whose poet could he have been but
Southampton's either before or after the dedication of his two poems?
Of whom, save Southampton, should he say—
"Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem "—(Sonnet
when it was that Earl who had so esteemed the Poet's lays? To
whom, except this noble fellow and personal friend, could he speak of his
Sonnets as the poor returns,
"The barren tender of a poet's debt?"—(Sonnet 83)
which is the most palpable acknowledgment of the fact that he fulfilled in
his Sonnets such a promise as he made in the dedication of Lucrece.
In Sonnet 108 he says his love is great, "even as when first I hallowed
thy fair name." Whose name did he ever hallow or honour save
that of Southampton? Again in Sonnet 102:—
"Our love was new and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays."
What love but that betwixt this Earl and Shakspeare did the Poet ever
greet with his lays? And Sonnet 105 tells us that up to the time at
which it was written, the affection must have been undivided; and the
patron of both Sonnets and poems must have been one and the same person.
"All alike my songs and praises be,
To one, of one, still such and ever so."
But the conclusive fact is to be found in Sonnet 78, where Shakspeare
himself salutes, addresses, and identifies the friend to whom and for whom
he wrote his Sonnets privately with his "Pupil Pen"; identifies him as the
man who lent him the light of his countenance and caused him to sing in
public for the first time.
"Thine eyes that taught the dumb on high to sing,
And heavy Ignorance aloft to flee."
"Thou art all my Art and dost advance
As high as Learning nay rude ignorance."
This is the Poet's recognition of the Patron at the time of publishing,
just as we have him pointed out in Sonnet 26 before the Poet appeared in
It was Southampton whose encouragement was the cause of our
Dramatist coming before the public as a Lyric Poet. It was
Southampton who inspired him to break silence and make his claim in the
court of literature. It was Southampton who thus advanced the "rude
ignorance" of Shakspeare to the status of Letters, and placed him on a
footing of equality with the Learned, as is proved by the prose
dedications to the poems, and by the motto to Venus and Adonis.
The man who "taught the dumb on high to sing" was he who made the singer
first break silence in public with his poem of Venus and Adonis.
He who encouraged the Poet to mount aloft was the patron of the earliest
poem published; and he who advanced the "rude ignorance" of Shakspeare to
the status of Letters and Learning was the Earl of Southampton—he to whom
the Poet tendered his Sonnets in acknowledgment of his debt. Those
who do not or cannot see this are unworthy of further consideration, and
those who deny it because they foolishly persist in foisting a false
theory on their readers must be left henceforth to carry on their clamour
outside the court.
A few of the primary facts now substantiated are—(1) That
Henry Wriothesley was the fatherless young friend to whom
Shakspeare addressed his first Sonnets. (2) That it was to him the
promise of a public dedication of his poems was privately made in Sonnet
26. (3) That he was the living original from whom the Poet drew his
portrait of Adonis as the Master-Mistress of his passion. (4) That
he was the Poet's Favourite whose comely complexion Shakspeare celebrates
as being more attractive in hue than that of the royal favourite
Essex-and-Ewe. (5) That he was the man who encouraged Shakspeare to
publish his poems, and the friend to whom the Sonnets were offered
privately as the "barren tender of a Poet's debt"; and (6) that a mass of
the Sonnets belong to the time of the early Plays, and therefore were
written too soon for William Herbert to have been the friend addressed in
them. If Evidence is to count for anything, we may now consider
Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, to be sufficiently identified as
the young friend and patron who was both the Object and the Subject of the
Southampton has nearly passed out of sight in the cloud of
dust created by the fall of Essex, and Time has almost effaced him from
the national memory—or had done so previous to the reminder offered in the
earlier edition of the present work. But for our great Poet's sake
we cannot help taking an interest in his story, or in his friendship, of
which the Sonnets are the fruit; and the more we draw near to read his
character aright, the greater reason we shall find to love him for what he
once was to Shakspeare. There was a time in our Poet's life when the
patronage of Southampton, as it was described by Barnes, shone like a
splendid shield in the eyes of envious rivals, and such a dazzling defence
must have tended to lessen the yelpings of the pack that was at him in
full cry about the years 1590-3. His influence would call off the
dogs. In all likelihood Southampton was one, the chief one, of those
"divers of worship," who, according to Chettle, had reported most
favourably of the Poet's private character, and vouched for his poetic
ability and "facetious grace" in writing. And, although not intended
as an autobiographic record, the Sonnets sufficiently show that this
friendship was the source of many comforting and loving thoughts, which
cherished and illumed his inner life. The 25th Sonnet tells us how
Shakspeare congratulated himself on having secured such a friend, whose
heart was larger than his fortunes, whose hand was liberal as his thought
was generous, and whose kindly regard placed the Poet far above the
"favourites of great princes." What truth there may be in the
tradition that the Earl gave Shakspeare a thousand pounds at one time we
do not know; but the story descends through Oldys and Rowe by two
different and apparently independent channels. Whether the Earl gave
so large a sum at one time or not, there can be no question that he did
him sundry good turns, and gave help of various kinds; if required, money
would be included; when the Poet most needed help, to hearten him in his
life-struggle, while he was working at the basis of his character and the
foundations of his fortune and his fame. It would be a kind of
breakwater influence, when the Poet was fighting with wind and wave for
every bit of foothold on firm ground.
Shakspeare would likewise be indebted to his friend at Court
for many a glimpse of Court life and Court manners and customs, many an
insight into personal character, through this chance of seeing the
personal characteristics that would otherwise have been veiled from him.
His friend would lift the curtain for him, and let him peep behind the
scenes which were draped to the commonalty.
It was a wonderful time for such a dramatist. Men and
women played more personal parts, exerted more personal influence, and
revealed more of their personal nature. The inner man got more
direct outward manifestation. Shakspeare saw the spirits of men and
women, as it were, in habitations of glass, sensitive to every light and
shadow, and showing how the changes passed over them, by the glow or gloom
that followed. Now-a-days, we are shut up in houses of stone,
iron-fenced by manners and customs and the growths of time, that have
accumulated between man and man, until a good deal of the Elizabethan
nearness of life is gone. We have lost much of that element, which
has been described as the real source of genius, the spirit of boyhood
carried into manhood, which the Elizabethans had, and showed it in their
friendships and their fighting, their passions and their play. We
are more shut up, and only peep at one another, we reveal the smallest
possible part of ourselves. The Elizabethans had more naked nature
for Shakspeare to draw; he was as fortunate in the frank habits of his
time as the Greek sculptors were in the freedom of their dress. He
would not have made nearly so much out of us, had he lived in our day,
because so much would not have been revealed or tolerated in public.
He would not be able to see the most characteristic things, the best and
the worst saying out their utmost, known by name, and visible at their
work. The personality which Shakspeare saw and seized, would now be
lessened in the increasing crowd of life, and conflict of circumstances,
and change of things. He would now see no sight like that of Drake
at bowls on Plymouth Hoe; or Raleigh smoking his pipe with his peasants,
and making their eyes glitter with the mirage of a land of gold; a Lord
Grey rushing at Southampton in the street, with his sword drawn; noble
grey heads going to the block after a life of service for their country;
Essex and her Majesty exhibiting in public the pets and passions of the
nursery; or the Queen-coquette showing her leg to an ambassador and boxing
the ears of a favourite; or dropping her glove on the stage, as the story
goes, for Shakspeare to pick it up and present it to her in some regal
character; or a player who, like Tarleton, dared to abuse the favourite
Leicester, present with the Queen, and who "played the God Luz, with a
flitch of bacon at his back; and the Queen bade them take away the knave
for making her to laugh so excessively, as he fought against her little
dog Perrico de Faldas, with his sword and longstaff, and bade the Queen
take off her mastiff."  That was a time
in which character was brought closer home to the dramatist. And the
Earl of Southampton's friendship was a means of introducing our Poet to
characters that must otherwise have remained out of reach. In this
way he was enabled to make a close study of Southampton's friends,
including persons like Essex and Mountjoy, and one of the most remarkable
women of that time, one of the most unique samples of human nature, the
Lady Rich, in whose person I think the Poet saw several of his creations
in outline, and whose influence warmed his imagination and gave colour to
the complexion of his Rosalind, Beatrice, Cleopatra, and Lady Macbeth.
Many a hint of foreign scenes would he catch from those who had travelled,
and could describe; men who in our time would perhaps put their experience
into books; and many a heroic trait from the silent fighting men, who had
done what they could not put into words. Looking over the shoulder
of his private friends, Shakspeare could read from the living book, see
some of the best and worst things that the life of his time had to show,
and take his mental pictures with his instantaneous quickness of
impression, for he had the chameleon-like spirit that could catch its
colour from the air he breathed, and in the company of these friends he
must often have breathed an air that "sweetly crept" into the study of his
imagination, brightening and enriching his mind, and making its images of
life come to him "apparelled in more precious habit," more "moving
delicate," especially in the shape of the exquisite fragrant-natured
English ladies who became his Imogens and Hermiones.
Southampton's friendship could not fail to give a larger
outlook and range to the Poet's mind when he was writing his early plays.
It was as good to him as if he had been personally a man of State Affairs,
for he was one who could make more of experience at second hand than most
other people can at first hand.
It has been assumed that these Sonnets of Shakspeare do but
represent a form of sonneteering adulation common to the time. As
though they were merely the poetic coin wherewith the Poet sought to repay
the patron for his munificent gifts. Nothing could be farther from
the fact. They contain no flattery. So far as they are
personal to Shakspeare they come warm from his own sincere heart, and are
vital with his own affectionate feeling for the brave and bounteous peer
to whom he publicly dedicated "love without end," and for whom he meant to
make a wreath of immortal flower which had its mortal rootage in the
Poet's own life. Such a celebration of personal friendship as occurs
in these Sonnets was not common as some writers have asserted. In
fact it has no parallel in the Elizabethan time. Such a friendship
was as uncommon as this celebration of it is rare.
Looking backward over the three centuries, and seeing the
halo of glory on the brow of the dead Past, it seems that the personal
friendship of man and man was a more possible and noble thing with the
Elizabethan men. Perhaps it is partly owing to the natural touch of
Time in the composition of his historic pictures; to the softened outline
and mellowing tint. But those Elizabethans have a way of coming home
to us with more of the nearness of brotherhood; they are like a band of
brothers with a touch of noble boyhood about their ways, and on their
faces a light as of the golden age. But such an example of personal
friendship as this of Shakspeare the player and Southampton the Peer
stands absolutely alone; there is nothing like it.
We are apt to think of Shakspeare as the great master-spirit,
who was fit to be the friend of the noblest by birth and the kingliest by
nature. Those who knew him, we fancy, would be more likely to think
of the injunction that reminds us not to be forgetful of entertaining
strangers, for they may be the angels of God in disguise, rather than to
be troubled with thoughts and suggestions of his being only a poor player.
But the age in which he lived was a time when the distinctions of rank and
the boundary lines of classes were so precisely observed that even the
particular style and quality of dress were imposed according to the
wearer's position in life. Therefore the feeling of personal
friendship must have been very strong in these two men, to have so far
obliterated the social landmarks, and made their remarkable intimacy
The 25th Sonnet tells us plainly enough, that the young Earl
first sought out the Poet, and conferred on him an unexpected honour; a
joy unlooked-for. This view is most in keeping with the two
personal characters. Then the frank-hearted, free-handed young noble
soon found that his advances were amply repaid. And he had the
insight to see that here was a noble of nature, with something in him
which towered over all social distinctions. On his side, the Poet
would warmly appreciate the open generous disposition of the Earl, who,
whatever else he lacked, had the genius to make himself beloved.
Shakspeare was that natural gentleman, who could preserve exactly the
distance at which the attraction is magnetically perfect, and most
powerfully felt; thus the acquaintanceship soon grew into a friendship of
the nearest and dearest possible between Shakspeare, the man of large and
sweet affections, and the comely good-natured youth, who had the intuition
to discover the Poet, and was drawn lovingly towards the man. Of the
depth of the personal affection, and the inward nature of the friendship,
there is the most ample proof. The dedicatory epistle to his poem of
Lucrece breathes the most cheery assurance, and publicly alludes to
a private history that has never before been understood, but which will
now serve to show how close were the personalities, how secret the
relationship of Southampton and Shakspeare.
The Sonnets abound with evidence that the personal intimacy
of Shakspeare and Southampton was very inward, the friendship most
uncommon. So near are they, that in Sonnet 39 the Poet says the two
are but one; and, that when he praises his friend, it is as though he were
praising himself. Therefore, he proposes to take advantage of a
separation, which is to divide them, and make their "dear love" lose the
name and look of singleness, by throwing into perspective that half which
alone deserves to be praised. Absence and distance are necessary to
show even in appearance that the two are not one! In Sonnet 23,
previously referred to, his love is so great that he cannot speak it when
they meet in person: the strength of his feeling is such as to tie his
tongue, and make him like an unpractised actor on the stage, overcome by
his emotion, so he tries to express it in his Sonnets, pleading that they
may be more eloquent with their silent love than the tongue, that might
have said more. The plea also of Sonnet 22 is most expressive of
tender intimacy. "Oh, my friend," he says, "be of yourself as wary
as I will be of myself; not for myself, but on your account. I will
bear your heart as cautiously, and keep it from all ill, as protectingly
as a nurse carries her babe." His spirit hovers about his young
friend. He warns him that youth is short, and beauty a fleeting gloss.
He defends him when he has been falsely accused and slandered by the
gossips about the Court; is sad when the Earl is reckless and does break
out in wild courses, or dwells in infectious society; tries to set him
writing (in Sonnet 77), by way of diversion, for his moral behoof and
mental benefit. He will write of him and his love in his absence
abroad, and when he returns to England, how lovingly (in Sonnet 100) he
holds him to look into the sun-browned face, with a peering jealousy of
affection, to see what change has been wrought by the wear of war and
waste of time,
"Rise, restive Muse, my Love's sweet face survey;
If Time have any wrinkle graven there,—
"be ready with the colour of eternal tint to retouch his beauty and make
it live for ever in immortal youth." Then we shall see that the
Poet's love grows warmer, as the world looks colder on the Earl; it rises
with the tide of calamity that threatened to overwhelm him; it exults and
"looks fresh with the drops of that most balmy time," when the Poet
welcomed his friend at the opened door of his prison, in 1603 (Sonnet
107), and made the free light of day once more richer with his cordial
"If the Earl of Southampton," says Boaden, "had been the
person addressed by Shakspeare, we should expect the Poet to have told the
Earl that but for his calamity and disgrace, mankind would never have
known the resources of his mighty mind." So might we if the Poet had
been a common flatterer, who had stood afar off and talked flamboyant
nonsense that was never meant to be tested for the truth, never brought to
bear upon the real facts because of the personal distance at which it was
spoken. But this was not Shakspeare's position. The Earl had
not a mighty mind, and Shakspeare was not driven by stress of
circumstances to laud the mental gifts which his friend did not possess.
In only a single instance has he mentioned the intellect of the Earl.
Sonnet 82 says,
"Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue!"
In this fact we may find one more illustration of the inwardness of their
personal intimacy. They were too intimate, and knew each other too
well for any "bosh" to be tolerated on either side. When Shakspeare
spoke to his friend Southampton it was from the quiet depths of genuine
feeling, not from the noisy shallows of flattery; and such was the nature
of their intercourse, the freedom of their friendship, that he was
permitted to do so, and could afford it. What Shakspeare found in
Southampton was not great gifts of mind to admire, but a fine generosity
and hearty frankness of nature to love. He was one of those who
grasp a friend with both hands to hold him fast, and wear him in their
heart of hearts. Shakspeare loved him too truly to speak of him falsely.
He was the only great poet in an age of adulation who never stood cap in
hand, or dealt in "lozengerie." Whilst Spenser's Sonnets are
sent to his patron in the servile attitude of flunkies, Shakspeare's
personal ones go with the bearing of ambassadors. Shakspeare did not
address his friend as a public man at a distance—had no need of the
speaking trumpet—but was thus secret and familiar with him as a bosom
Upon any theory of interpretation the personal intimacy must
have been of the closest, most familiar kind. Those who have so
basely imagined that Shakspeare and his young friend both shared one
mistress must assume that the intimacy was one of great nearness.
Also those who accept the ignorant reading of the 20th Sonnet must admit
that the Poet was on very familiar terms with the Earl to address him in
the language which they have attributed to him by their modern rather than
Elizabethan reading. My interpretation supposes a nearness equally
great, a personal intimacy equally secret, but as pure as theirs is gross,
as noble as theirs is ignoble, as natural as theirs is unnatural. An
intimacy which does not strain all probability in assuming it to have been
close enough for Shakspeare to write dramatic sonnets on his friend's love
and courtship, as it does to suppose the Poet wrote Sonnets to proclaim
their mutual disgrace, and perpetuate his own sin and shame. In
truth it is the sense of such nearness as I advocate, that, working
blindly, has given some show of likelihood to the vulgar interpretation;
the tender feeling passing the love of woman which, carried into the
interpretation of the impersonal Sonnets by prurient minds, has made the
intimacy look one of which any extravagance might be believed.
The personal Sonnets all tend to show and illustrate
this nearness of the two friends, only they prove it to have been on
Shakspeare's part of the purest, loftiest, most manly kind. There is
not one of those wherein Shakspeare is the speaker for certain, that can
possibly be pressed into showing that the friendship had the vile aspect
into which it has been distorted by false focussing.
Southampton being identified as the person addressed, and the
object of Shakspeare's personal affection, the intimacy must have been one
that was perfectly compatible with the Earl's love for a woman. For
it is certain that he was in love, and passionately wooing Elizabeth
Vernon, during some years of the time over which the Sonnets extend.
And it would be witlessly weak to suppose that Shakspeare wrote Sonnets
upon a disgraceful intimacy to amuse a man who was purely in love; out of
all nature to imagine that he pursued Southampton in a wooing amorous way
more fondly and tenderly than ever after the Earl had become passionately
enamoured of Elizabeth Vernon. He would neither thrust himself
forward as the lady's rival for the Earl's love, nor appear in her
presence-chamber covered with moral mire to remind them both of the fact
that he and the Earl had rolled together in the dirt; and the intimacy
must have been such as to recommend Shakspeare to Elizabeth Vernon as a
friend of the Earl, not brand him as an enemy to herself. Again,
Boaden is of opinion that the Sonnets do not at all apply to Lord
Southampton, either as to age, character, or the bustle and activity of a
life distinguished by distant and hazardous service, to something of which
they must have alluded had he been their object. He argues that
there was not sufficient difference in their ages for Shakspeare to have
called the Earl "sweet boy." The difference was nine years and six
months. Our Poet was born April, 1561, and his friend October, 1573.
Now if the two men had been of like mental constitution, that difference
in years would have made considerable disparity in character when the one
was thirty and the other but twenty years of age. But one man is not
as old as another at the same age, nor are men constituted alike.
Shakspeare's mental life, and ten years' experience in such a life, were
very different things from the life and experience of his young friend.
He would be quite warranted by this difference of age in
calling the Earl "sweet boy," who was a boy when matched with his own
mental manhood, but his expression did not depend on age alone. When a
priest says "my child," he does not first stop to consider whether the
person so addressed is some twenty years younger than himself. He is
presumed to be speaking from a feeling that is not exactly governed or
guided chronologically. So with Shakspeare. He is taking the
liberty and latitude of affection. He uses the language of a love
that delights to dally with the small words and dainty diminutives of
speech, which Dante calls the "wee short words one cannot say without
smiling," and tries as it were to express the largeness of its feeling in
the least possible shape, on purpose to get all the nearer to nature; it
being the way of all fond love to express itself in miniature. It is
one of Shakspeare's ways of expressing the familiarity of his affection
more than any difference in age. He speaks by virtue of that
protecting tenderness of spirit which he feels for the youth—the
prerogative of very near friendship—an authority which no age could
necessarily confer. And it is also his way of expressing the difference of
rank and position, as the world would have it, that existed betwixt them;
the distance at which he is supposed to stand is turned to account in the
shape of an elder brotherhood. It is of set purpose that Shakspeare
paints himself older than he was, as most obviously he has done; it is
intended as a foil and framework for his picture. He deepens the
contrast and gives to his own years a sort of golden gloom, and mellow
background, with the view of setting forth in more vernal hues the fresh
ruddy youth of his friend, the subject of his "passion." He puts on
an autumnal tint and exaggerates his riper years on purpose to place in
relief that image of youth which he has determined to perpetuate in all
its spring-tide beauty, and thus the "yellow leaf" throws out the
ratheness of the green. This does not show that there were not sufficient,
years betwixt them, but that the intimacy of friendship was such as to
permit the Poet to obey a natural law which has served to finish his
picture with a more artistic touch, and to further illustrate the
familiarity of his affection.
And hero we may fairly infer that the world is indebted to
this personal relationship for those beautiful delineations of loving
friendship betwixt man and man which Shakspeare has given us, excelling
all other dramatists here as elsewhere. He himself has portrayed the
most human-hearted types of male friendship! He who wrote this
memorable advice, "keep thy friend under thy own life's key; be checked
for silence, but never taxed for speech!" There is a sacred
sweetness in his manly friendship; fine and fragrant in its kind, as is
the delicate aroma breathed by his most natural and exquisite women.
No one, like him, has so tenderly shown the souls of two men in the
pleasant wedlock of a delightful friendship. The rarest touch being
reserved for the picture in which one friend is considerably older than
the other. Then the effect is gravely-gladsome indeed; the touch is
one of the nearest to nature. This we connect with his own affectionate
feeling for the young Earl, and see how that which was subjective in the
Sonnets has become objective in the plays. Thus, behind Bassanio and
Antonio we may identify Southampton and Shakspeare.
Also, as pointed out to me many years ago by Mrs. Cowden
Clarke, in another Antonio and the Viola-faced youth, Sebastian, of
Twelfth Night, we have a still more striking reflex of the Sonnet
friendship. This dear old fellow-labourer says in her letter, "I
have often felt with you that Antonio and Bassanio were dramatized
pictures of Shakspeare and his beloved friend of the Sonnets. I also
think that Antonio, the sea-captain, and Sebastian are repainted pictures
of the same subject, even yet more closely copied from life. The
humility, the fascinated attachment, the idolatrous admiration, together
with the consciousness of power to protect and guide, as shown in his
restless following and offer of his sailor's purse, even, while treating
the youth as a being of a superior order, are all reflexes of the Sonnet
friendship. And then the passionate regret in the after-scene—'But
oh! how vile an idol proves this God!' "
This view, however, is coloured or discoloured by the
personal theory of the Sonnets; and it should be remembered that Antonio's
exclamation was the result of a complete mistake on his part, and
was not based on any real change in Sebastian! He did not speak from
a clearer insight into the character of his young friend, but from the
blindness of his own error, and therefore this does NOT
countenance the personal interpretation of certain Sonnets, which I
maintain are not spoken by Shakspeare in his own character. The
false impression in the play does not make for reality as between the two
male friends in the Sonnets. Also, it is Sebastian who says, "MY
stars shine darkly over me; the malignance of MY
fate might perhaps distemper yours."
Antonio says he gave Sebastian his love "without restraint,
all his in Dedication." But note the difference between the Sonnet
and tile Play. Antonio declares that he did devotion to the image
of Sebastian; whereas Shakspeare says in the Sonnets,
"Let NOT my
love be called Idolatry,
Nor my beloved AS AN IDOL
We have to distinguish difference as well as discover similitude in
character, and must not allow any trait of likeness to vouch for a whit
more than it is worth; must not permit the least smudge of confusion, nor
lose the least particular by any looseness of generalization. We
know that Shakspeare was "all his in Dedication," but we may never know
how much the Poet adventured for his young friend who was bound up in the
Essex bond, how far he lent himself, in spite of his better judgment, but
we may be sure that his love, like that of Antonio, was strong enough to
surmount all selfish considerations. He was one like Antonio, "that
for his love dares yet do more than you have heard him brag to you he
Students of Shakspeare's times, his life, and works will have
received an impression that our Poet must have been in some way, to some
extent, mixed up with the affairs of Essex. I am told that the late
Mr. Croker, of the Quarterly Review, always entertained this
opinion, although he could never lay his hand on any very tangible
evidence of the fact. There is constructive evidence enough to show,
that if Shakspeare was not hand-in-glove with the Essex faction, he fought
on their side pen-in-hand. In the chorus at the end of Henry the
Fifth he introduced a prophecy of the Earl's expected successes in
Ireland. This was after Bacon had parted company with Essex.
Then, one of the counts in Essex's indictment was the play of
King Richard the Second, which, according to Bacon's account of
Meyrick's arraignment, was ordered to be played to satisfy his eyes with a
sight of that tragedy which he thought soon after his lord should bring
from the stage to the State. That this play was Shakspeare's cannot
be doubted, except by the most wilful crassness or determined blindness;
nor that the "new additions of the Parliament scene, and the deposing
of King Richard, as it hath been lately acted by the King's Majesty's
servants at the Globe," were made to the drama, previously written by
Shakspeare, at the call of his patrons, the confused recollections of
Forman notwithstanding. I shall have to add another bit of evidence,
that Shakspeare did throw a little light on things political with the
dark lanthorn, and introduce allusions which, to say the least, were
calculated to make play for Essex; and thus far we must hold that our Poet
was on the same side, and rowed, as we say, in the same boat with these
"private friends"; this fact will furnish my concluding illustration of
the personal intimacy of Peer and Poet, and of their friendship's binding
and abiding force.
Nevertheless, the present contention is not that the Earl of
Southampton was the friend of Shakspeare and that William Herbert was
NOT! Both of these noblemen were patrons of
literature; both were his personal friends; Southampton being the first
by many years. It is the fundamental fallacy of the Brownites,
who are misled by Thorpe's "Only Begetter," to assume that this proved or
implied that one friend only was concerned in the production of the
Sonnets; and it is their irretrievable error to try and read the one
friendship backwards all through the Sonnets, when there are two entirely
distinct series; so distinct that the earlier Sonnets, which were
consecrated to Southampton by the personal love of Shakspeare, are
profaned by being mixed up with the Latter Sonnets as commonly
interpreted; the matter being made still worse when these are read as the
personal utterances of Shakspeare. Then a defamation of his
character is added to the de-consecration of the Sonnets which he had
devoted to his first and foremost friend. It is their especial work
to confuse by mixing up all together the Sonnets of Herbert with those of
Southampton; the "Sweet Argument" with the unsweet, in the same state of
general promiscuity as that which they then deduce and ascribe to
Shakspeare, his Boy, and the Dark Lady. Hence they could neither
distinguish nor define; they have only obfuscated the Sonnets and confused
the minds of their readers.
Those who begin with Herbert and the date of 1598, under the
blind guidance of Thorpe, are bound to read the Sonnets backwards.
They are precluded from looking at anything in a straightforward manner,
and must go wrong from the starting-point.
The advocates of the hypothesis that William Herbert was the
sole inspirer of Shakspeare's Sonnets are helplessly driven to deny—(1)
that the young friend was fatherless; (2) that he was the only
support of his house; (3) that the Sonnets were begun in 1590;
(4) that they were written before the early Plays as quoted; (5)
that they were written before Venus and Adonis was printed;
(6) that they were written with the poet's "Pupil Pen"; (7) that
"Books" of the Sonnets were sent to Southampton privately before the Poems
were dedicated to him publicly; (8) that Southampton was the living
original from whom the Poet drew his Adonis; (9) that Marlowe was
the rival Poet of the Sonnets; (10) that these Sonnets were extant
in 1598 according to the testimony of Meres. In short, they are
forced to ignore everything inside or outside of the Sonnets that can be
established on behalf of Southampton; and compelled to suppress, pervert,
or overlook every fact that is fatal to their one primary false
assumption. It has been very truly said that when the human will is
strongly disposed to ignore the practical consequences of a fact, it "has
a subtle and almost unlimited power of blinding the intellect even to the
most elementary laws of evidence;" but this truth has never been more
curiously exemplified than by the Brownites.
The latest attempt to dodge the fatal dates is that made by
Professor Dowden and Mr. Furnivall, who tell their readers that it really
matters very little WHO the "Mr. W. H." of Thorpe's
Inscription or the "Will" of the Sonnets was! But in doing this they
are sitting like the man on the end of the plank projecting from a high
window, and sawing betwixt themselves and the wall. If W. H. be not
"William Herbert," they are launched backward into space with nothing
whatever to break their fall. A story told of the hunted beaver, by
Herodotus, if not matter-of-fact, may be commended to their notice as a
most apposite fable.
[19.](page 39) Arber's English Reprints.
[20.](page 47) Sydney Memoirs,
vol. ii, p. 43.
[21.](page 49) In the Malone and Grenville copies this
reads "being part in all I have, devoted yours," which punctuation has
been preserved. But it is so obviously an error of the press as not
even to demand a passing remark. It is obstructive to the sense, and
severs what Shakspeare meant to clench by his last repetition of "yours."
[22.](page 51) According to Gabriel Harvey, in his
Trimming of Thomas Nash, the latter was of seven years' standing in
[23.](page 52) Reliquiæ
Wottonianæ, p, 163.
[24.](page 59) Scrap of paper in the State Paper
Office, 1588. Calendar of State Papers, Elizabeth, 1581-1590,