Massey on  Shakspeare's Sonnets (9)

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-XXII-

(continued)

DRAMATIC SONNETS.

Composed for Master Will. Herbert.

    No more conclusive illustration could be given of Shakspeare's method in adopting his hint from Sidney's Sonnet, and re-applying it to the same lady in accordance with the change of conditions.  But it will be more satisfactory to print a few of Sidney's Sonnets in full, for the purpose of comparing them with Shakspeare's.

 

                   YOU IN THEM I LOVE.
Love is too young to know what conscience is!
Yet who knows not, conscience is born of love?
Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,
Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove:
For thou betraying me, I do betray
My nobler part to my gross body's treason;
My soul doth tell my body that he may
Triumph in love; flesh stays no farther reason;
But rising at thy name, doth point out thee
As his triumphant prize: proud of this pride
He is contented thy poor drudge to be,
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side:
    No want of conscience hold it that I call
    Her—Love! for whose dear love I rise and
            fall.    (151)

                THE TRANSFORMATION.
O me! what eyes hath love put in my head,
Which hath no correspondence with true sight?
Or if they have, where is my judgment fled,
That censures falsely what they see aright?
If that be fair whereon my false eyes dote,
What means the world to say it is not so?
If it be not, then love doth well denote,
Love's eye is not so true as all men's! no,
How can it?   O, how can love's eye be true,
That is so vext with watching and with tears?
No marvel then, though I mistake my view;
The sun itself sees not till heaven clears:
    O cunning Love! with tears thou keep'st
            me blind,
Lest eyes well-seeing thy foul faults should
         find!    (148)


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


         REBEL SENSE AND REASON.
My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease;
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please:
My Reason, the Physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which Physic did except:
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse, as madmen's,
            are
At random from the truth vainly expressed;
    For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee
            bright,
    Who art as black as hell, as dark as night. (147)






  
                   VIRTUE AND LOVE.
Love is my sin and thy dear Virtue hate!
Hate of my sin, grounded on Sinful loving:
O, but with mine compare thou thine own state,
And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;
Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,
That have profaned their scarlet ornaments,
And sealed false bond of love as oft as mine;
Robbed others' beds' revenues of their rents:
Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lov'st those
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:
Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be:
    If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,
    By self-example mayest thou be denied! (142)

       
TRUE BEAUTY AND FALSE SEEING.
Thou blind fool, Love, what dust then to mine
        eyes,
That they behold, and see not what they see?
They know what beauty is, see where it lies,
Yet what the best is take the worst to be:
If eyes, corrupt by over-partial looks,
Be anchored in the bay where all men ride,
Why of eyes' falsehood hast thou forgèd hooks,
Whereto the judgment of my heart is tied?
Why should my heart think that a several plot
Which my heart knows the wide world's
        common place?

Or mine eyes seeing this, say this is not,
To put fair truth upon so foul a face?
    In things right true my heart and eyes have
            erred,
    And to this false plague are they now
            transferred. (137)

             "YOU IN THEM I LOVE."
Stella, while now, by Honour's cruel might
I am from you, light of my life, misled,
And whiles,—fair you, my sun, thus overspread
With absence' veil,—I live in Sorrow's night;
If this dark place yet show like candle-light,
Some Beauty's piece, as amber-coloured head,
Milk hands, rose cheeks, or lips more sweet,
       more red;
Or seeings jet-black but in blackness bright;
They please,—I do confess they please,—mine eyes:
But why? because of you they models be;
Models, such be wood-globes of glistering skies:
Dear, therefore be not jealous over me,
    If you hear that they seem my heart to move;
    Not them, O no! but you in them I love. (91)

                  THE TRANSFORMATION.
Transformed in show, but more transformed in
        mind,
I cease to strive, with double conquest foiled;
For (woe is me!) my powers all I find
With outward force and inward treason spoiled:
For from without came to mine eyes the blow,
Whereto mine inward thoughts did faintly
        yield;
Both these conspired poor Reason's overthrow:
False in myself, thus have I lost the field;
Thus are my eyes still captive to one sight;
Thus all my thoughts are slaves to one thought
       still;
Thus Reason to his servants yields his right;
Thus is my power transformed to your will:
    What marvel then I take a woman's hue,
    Since what I see, think, know, is all but you?

                                               Perhaps some find
Stella's great powers that so confuse my mind.

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

       "REBEL SENSE" AND REASON.
If I could think how these my thoughts to leave,
Or thinking still, my thoughts might have good
        end;
If rebel sense would reason's law receive,
Or reason foiled would not in rain contend
;
Then might I think what thoughts were best to
        think;
Then might I wisely swim, or gladly sink:
If either you would change your cruel heart,
Or, cruel still, time did your beauty stain;
If from my soul this love would once depart,
Or for my love I might some love obtain;
Then might I hope a change, or ease of mind,
By your good help or in myself to find;
But since my thoughts in thinking still are spent,
With reason's strife by senses overthrown;
You fairer still and still more cruel bent,
I loving still a love that loveth none;
I yield and strive, I kiss and curse the pain—
Thought, reason, sense, time, you, and I
            maintain
. (Sidera, 8)

                     VIRTUE AND LOVE.
A strife is grown between Virtue and Love,
While each pretends that Stella must be his:
Her eyes, her lips, her all, saith Love, do this,
Since they do wear his badge, most firmly prove:
But Virtue thus that little doth disprove,
That Stella,—O dear name!—that Stella is
That virtuous soul, sure heir of heavenly bliss,
Not this fair outside which our heart doth move:
And therefore, though her beauty and her grace
Be Love's indeed, in Stella's self he may
By no pretence claim any manner (of) place:
Well, Love, since this demur our suit doth stay,
    Let Virtue have that Stella's self; yet thus,
    That Virtue but that body grant to us! (52)

      TRUE BEAUTY AND FALSE SEEING.
It is most true that eyes are formed to serve
The inward light, and that the heavenly part
Ought to be king, from whose rules who do
        swerve,
Rebels to nature, strive for their own smart:
It is most true, what we call Cupid's dart
An image is, which for ourselves we carve,
And, fools, adore in temple of our heart,
Till that good God make church and church-
        man starve:
True, that true beauty virtue is indeed,
Whereof this beauty can be but a shade,
Which elements with mortal mixture breed:
True, that on earth we are but pilgrims made,
    And should in soul up to our country move:
    True, and yet true—that I must Stella love. (5)

 

 

    One dominant conceit of Sidney's was in the identification of himself or his love with Cupid, and Stella with Venus.  The Boy appears in a number of Sonnets.  In Sonnet 40 he is the blind fool Love.  He is the childish representative of Sidney, who played the fool with Penelope Devereux.

"In truth, O Love, with what a boyish mind
 Thou didst proceed in thy most serious ways."

Like a child, looking babies in the eyes of Stella; like a fool, playing bo-peep with her instead of playing the husband and marrying her.  This conceit grew ticklesome when applied to Lady Rich at a later period.  Shakspeare's 137th begins—

"Thou blind fool, Love, what dost then to mine eyes?"

And here, as in the 149th Sonnet, the speaker adopts this character of the blind Cupid and turns it to quite another account.  He takes the leading thought, but is not limited to Sidney's leading-strings.  The lady has so greatly changed, and the feeling now expressed or simulated is no longer the true love of Sidney, but the pretended passion of Will Herbert as the subject of Shakspeare's Sonnets.  It is in Sonnet 143 that we can most palpably see the divergence in the mode of treatment.  Instead of the classical Venus and child we have the commonplace housewife and her babe, whom she sets down as she runs to catch her chickens.

"Love still a boy and oft a wanton is,"

as first line of Sidney's 73rd Sonnet, is the original of Shakspeare's 151st, which opens with—

"Love is too young to know what conscience is."

And Falstaff in the Merry Wives of Windsor exclaims, "Why, now is Cupid a child of conscience."

    This infatuation, whether felt or feigned, real or assumed, is thus shown to be that of a youth who can be and is represented as a boy or a babe following after and crying for its mother.  A position seriously impossible to the mature man Shakspeare, but humorously possible when occupied by Herbert, who was so much younger than Lady Rich.

    The subject of Sonnet 138 is "Age in Love."  But there are two versions of this Sonnet, the original one having been printed in the year 1599 by Jaggard in the Passionate Pilgrim.

 

When my Love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies;
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unlearnèd in the world's false subtleties!
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue;
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed;
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O, love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And Age in love loves not to have years told:
    Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
    And in our faults by lies we flattered be.
                                                                  (Thorpe, 138.)

When my Love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unskilful in the world's false forgeries:
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although I know my years be past the best,
I smiling credit her false-speaking tongue,
Out-facing faults in love with love's ill rest:
But wherefore says my Love that she is young?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O, love's best habit is a soothing tongue,
And Age in love loves not to have years told:
    Therefore I'll lie with love, and love with me,
    Since that our faults in love thus smothered
            me.                                    (Passionate Pilgrim.)

 

    But if these two versions are carefully compared, it will be seen that the subject involves more than "Age in love," and that the second version was modified of set purpose to conceal a fact which was manifest in the first one.  As amended it is made to look as though the "Age in love" was applicable to both lovers, and that both were telling lies on the same ground of fact.  But if both were old there would be no inequality and no need of falsehood or disguise.  That the Lady was old, or the elder, is certain.  This is proved by the suppressed lines—

"But wherefore says my Love that she is young?"

Because

"Age in love loves not to have years told."

    Elsewhere we find evidence of the speaker's youth in direct contrast with the lady's ago.  She is portrayed as the mother compared with him, the child who asks her to "PLAY the mother's part" in kissing him and being kind to him, who runs after her like a child crying, calling himself "thy babe."  Therefore, the treatment of this same youth as "Age in love" must be an intentional blind, a mode of enhancing the jest for those who understood the allusions.  The lady's age is the original reality aimed at; hence the concealment of this, the subject of her lying, in the later version, by leaving out the allusion to her age—

"But wherefore says my Love that she is young?"

When she tells lies about her truth (which turns on her age in line 9) he pretends to believe her, that she might think him young and green, although she knows his days are past the best.  I take it that the allusion to his own years being past the best is an intended falsification of fact for the sake of the lying together.  The first version says of the lying, which is the lady's only

"I smiling credit her false-speaking tongue,
 Out-facing faults in love with love's i11 rest."

And this last line was altered to—

"On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed."

This suppression points to an intentional disguise for one of the persons concerned; and the other alteration, whereby the jest is made to appear more serious still, looks like an intended masking of the other person.  By these changes the irony of the youth in love with age is made less probable, and the suppression of the "simple truth" on both sides leads to the conclusion that both of them represented "Age in love" who did not wish to have the truth confessed.

"Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,"

only involved the speaker's youthfulness, his greenness, his implicit credence when the lady told lies respecting her own age.

"Although I know my years be past the best,"

is one half of the double joke at which he smiles.

"But wherefore says my love that she is young?
 And wherefore say not I that I am old?"

Why indeed?  As if elderly people would woo a woman by saying so.  The earlier copy shows the lies to have been on the score of the lady's age only; and why should that have been suppressed?  Why should the Sonnet have been carefully corrected, and for the worse?  In making the change the Poet loses the antithesis between young and old—the grain of salt that he liked to see sparkle in his lines; and the real subject of the lady's lies disappears altogether.  There must have been private and particular reasons for generalizing thus vaguely.

    It must have been apprehended that the line—

"But wherefore says my Love that she is young?"

might excite suspicion and the story be got at; another touch was needed to perfect the disguise.  And so we catch the Poet, unless the change was made by Herbert himself, doing a bit of work analogous to that which has to be performed by the stealers of marked linen, viz. picking out the proof of ownership.

    The speaker then is so young that his years, in contrast with the lady's age, can be treated as matter for a laugh in the sleeve; he is unmarried, and his Christian name is "Will."  All the testimony on the score of character unites with the other evidence in proof that this is young William Herbert, not William Shakspeare; he was a spirit of a different complexion, a man of another mould, and at the time neither young enough to be the speaker with the humorous reading, nor old enough for the serious interpretation hitherto accepted, he being just thirty-six, exactly "midway in this our mortal life."  At which period of perfect manhood and ripened power, his days could not possibly have been "past the best."  If he were the speaker the Sonnet would have no meaning.  For he would not be lying in saying that he was not old, and the "simple truth" could not have been suppressed by his not admitting that he was old.

    Critics have wasted time in pointing out that I make "Will" Herbert speak of himself as being old and the lady as being young, when Herbert himself was nineteen years of age, and Lady Rich was getting on for forty—"the exact reverse of the actual positions Imagined in the Sonnets."  It is difficult to resist laughing in the face of such simplicity.  All the irony intended turns on this reversal of the actual facts, as is the wont and nature of irony.  There was no meaning apart from the antithesis, and there is no antithesis except in the speaker being young and the lady not young.  The alteration proves the double intention.

    By recovering the real relationship, we find the true position portrayed or assumed, for the purpose is that of the youth in love with a lady who is far older than himself, the same position and characters as in Sonnet 143.  The two go together and corroborate each other.

"Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
 And in our faults by lies we flattered be."

Such is the jest.  For a jest it is, and little more.  Nothing more to swear by.  The only lying together is in telling the lies—she about her age and he about his pretended passion.  There is no approach to making love here in any mood of criminal earnest, nor to the dignity of genuine lust, which is so often too terribly in earnest for any such elaborate jesting.  In the first copy we read

"Therefore I'll lie with love and love with me,"

but this was altered to

"Therefore I lie with her and she with me."

    A pun is introduced, and the sense is changed, the meaning being made grosser.  The lying together on the subject of age is perverted and made personal.  This alteration must have been made by the same hand that suppressed the evidence of the lady's age in changing the line, "But wherefore says my Love that she is young," when she was not, as an intentional disguise.  This particular change is made in and by the grosser spirit of two.  To my thinking, Sonnet 152 contains indubitable proof that the speaker is not a married man.  It brings the question to an issue.  He distinctly charges the lady with being married and untrue to her wedding bed and bond.  Then he admits that he, too, is forsworn, and that she knows him to be so.  But he says she is twice forsworn, in being false to her husband and false to him.  And having said the worst of her, hurled at her the most damning charges, he turns on himself with a revulsion of feeling, determined to show himself as the most perjured oath-breaker of the two.  Now, surely, we shall have it!  He is about to prove, in bitterness of heart, that he is more perjured than she, and that his sins are of a deeper dye than hers.  Therefore, one would have thought that, if a married man, and anxious for self-condemnation, desirous of showing himself in a still lower gulf of guilt, the first thing he would have done would be, to point out that he was as bad as her in kind, or that they were fitly matched.  Instead of this—instead of a manly voice heavy with passion or dogged with determination to say the worst—we hear the treble of a youth, asking, "But why of two oaths' breach do I accuse thee, when I break twenty?"  And what are the twenty oaths sworn and vows broken by him?  Why, he has sworn that she was kind, loving, truthful, and fifty other pretty things, which are all lovers' lies; his perjury consisting of oaths in her praise.  And this has been imagined to be Shakspeare speaking of himself, under the most self-culpatory circumstances. The married man who has cruelly charged her with her crime, which would appear to have been committed for his sake, and then tried to turn the reproach from his cowardly self by a playful handling of the subject!

    So is it with Sonnet 143, of which Steevens has remarked, "the beginning is at once pleasing and natural, but the conclusion of it is lame and impotent indeed.  We attend to the cries of the infant, but we laugh at the loud blubbering of the great boy, Will."  And well we might, if Shakspeare, who, in an earlier Sonnet, has painted the leaf of his life in autumnal tint, and appeared to have felt the evening of his day folding about him, and seen its shadows lengthening in the sunset, had here represented himself in love with, and stark mad for, a bold bad woman—by the image of a poor little infant, a tender child, toddling after its mammy, and crying for her apron-corner to hold by, and her kiss to still its whimpering discontent.  This would be laughable, if not too lamentable.  But Shakspeare did not write to be laughed at, nor did he in his riper years put forth what would, if he were the speaker, be pure maudlin, and the very degradation of pathos.  The blunder of the imagery would have been almost worse than the criminal infatuation.  This is not the personal wooing of the man who carried within him the furnace of passion, in which the swart lineaments and orient gorgeousness of Cleopatra glow superbly,—the lightnings that leap from out the huge cloudy sorrows of stormy old Lear,—the awful power that in Lady Macbeth can darken the moral atmosphere, past seeing the colour of blood,—the flashes of nether flame which play like serpent tongues about Othello's love, till they have licked up its life-springs.

    The YOUTH of the speaker is demonstrable, and his name is "Will."  Now, as the old Scotch servant informed his master when he flung away his wig, "There is no a wale o' wigs on Kirrie Muir;" so we have no great choice in the matter of "Wills."  There are but two possible candidates, and they are "Will Herbert" and "Will Shakspeare."  Will Herbert, the nephew of Philip Sidney, was a youth of nineteen when Sonnet 138 was printed in the Passionate Pilgrim, at which time Shakspeare was thirty-six years old.  The inevitable conclusion is, that the speaker of these Latter Sonnets, whose name is "Will," was William Herbert, who was Master W. H. until he became the Earl of Pembroke on the death of his father in 1601.

    The curious in such matters may find in Herbert's own Poems [86] proof that the writer of them is one in nature, age, and taste with the speaker of these Sonnets.  There is proof in his own handwriting, so to say, that he was personally, or pretended to be, a sufferer from exactly such a passion as is here painted, and that he addressed a lady, the very same in character and kind of charm, as is here imaged by Shakspeare—not as an object of worship, but for the purpose of disparagement and depreciation.  This was not the lady who afterwards became the celebrated Countess of Devonshire.  That lady, we are told, was the object of Herbert's "chaste idolatry"; this lady of whom we speak was just the reverse.  He has presented her picture in some lines replying to a friend who had flatly given his opinion of the lady, and wondered what the young Earl could see in her to admire—

"One with admiration [87] told me,
     He did wonder much and marvel,
 (As, by chance, he did behold ye)
     How I could become so servile
         To thy beauty, which he swears
         Every alehouse lattice wears.

 Then he frames a second motion,
     From thy revoluting eyes,
 Saying—such a wanton motion
     From their lustre did arise,
         That of force thou couldst not be
         From the shame of women free!"

This is the lady of the Latter Sonnets, feature by feature; her whole character summed up briefly with a perfect tally.  Sonnet 131 says—

                                          "Some say that thee behold,
 Thy face hath not the power
to make love groan."

Here is the same servility to the beauty that is quite incommensurate in appearance to the effects which it produces—the beauty so accosting that it is merely a sign like that of an alehouse, which aptly expresses the "wide world's commonplace" of Sonnet 137—the SERVILITY felt by the "proud heart's slave and vassal wretch" of Sonnet 141.  Then there is the very motion of those eyes so often dwelt on in the Sonnets, and, looking in at their windows, we see the same interior, the same fire aglow, the same picture of Paphos.  Also he treats the lady after the same ironical fashion.  In one Sonnet he asserts that he only loves her for her false adornments.  One of Herbert's poems, commencing "Oh, do not tax me with a brutish love," is alike in argument with Sonnet 141; and all through there is the same inexplicable infatuation, though this is rendered so much more powerfully by the hand of Shakspeare.

    One of my critics, speaking of these Latter Sonnets, has said, "We do not believe that Shakspeare played the pimp to his own dishonour, but we are afraid that he did conceive the dramatic situation."  This, of course, grants the dramatic rendering, but would leave it baseless, historically or otherwise, whereas the present reading supplies a foundation in identifiable fact without saddling the Poet with wantonly conceiving the situation for the sake of writing about an unreality.

    As the matter was left, the youth of the speaker was more completely concealed, and there was far less chance of identifying him as "Will" Herbert, who was but nineteen years old when the Sonnet first appeared in print.  And, as I read the matter, the elder "Will" got left in the lurch by his friend "Will" the younger, because the name of the speaker of these Sonnets is "Will."  It is probable that there are reflections of this subject to be made out in the dramatic mirror of the time.

    Shakspeare's play of As You -Like It belongs to the period, and in this we find a bit of by-play on the name of William in relation to two different persons.

Touchstone.   How old are you, friend?
Will.               Five-and-twenty, Sir.
Touch.            A ripe age: is thy name William?
Will.               William, sir.
Touch.            A fair name.  Now you are not ipse, for I am he.
Trill.               Which he, sir?

This is possibly an allusion to the two Wills concerned in the Latter Sonnets, and the difficulty of determining which was Ipse, as must have been foreseen by the "Will" who put the Sonnets into the press.

    Then comes the question, "Art Rich?"  Put to a poor country lout, it has not much meaning; poked at Herbert, the joke is enriched.  This is a way Shakspeare had of making by-play for his Private Friends.  The Latter Sonnets written for Herbert were begun when he was "Master Will" in 1599, and that was as near as need be for the date of the play.  Several likenesses crop up, more particularly where Silvius, the disdained lover of Phœbe, brings a love-letter from her to Rosalind, and Rosalind charges Silvius with writing the letter.  There is not the least reason for supposing that Silvius does not speak the simple truth when he says he has "never heard it yet."  But Rosalind, in spite of his protestations, still assumes that he devised and wrote it, and says, "What, to make thee an instrument and play false strains upon thee!"  Eh, Master Will?  But that is a palpable hit!  Again, the nature of some of the Latter Sonnets could not be more aptly described than by Rosalind's characterization of the letter as containing "Ethiope words, blacker in their effect than in their countenance," just as we find them in the Sonnets of "Will."  Rosaline and Hermia are both denounced as Ethiops; and it is said that the use of such "Ethiope words" was a "giant rude invention" that could not have been born of woman's brain.  It is curious, too, to notice in connection with the "black wires" of Sonnet 130, that Phœbe complains of Rosalind in disguise—

"He said mine eyes were black, and MY HAIR BLACK!
 And now I do remember, scorned at me:
 I marvel why I answered not again!"

As if, like Lady Rich's, her hair was NOT black, but only called so to spite her!  The lines—

"If the scorn of your bright eyne
 Have power to raise such love in mine,"

contain an echo to the sentiment and sound of those in Sonnet 150—

"If thy unworthiness raised love in me,
 More worthy I to be beloved of thee."

There is a passage or two in Much Ado About Nothing which may cast a sidelight upon the name and the person of "Will" in the Sonnets.  It was first conjectured by Mr. Hunter that the character of Benedick was drawn for William Herbert.  We find there is a reference made to the initial letter of a name that is not in the play, and therefore to a person out of sight.  "Hey ho!" sighs Beatrice, and Margaret asks if that is for a hawk, a horse, or a husband?  Beatrice replies, "For the letter that begins them all—H."  Now she is in love with Benedick, whose name does not begin with "H."  If for Benedick we read Herbert, we make out the meaning of it, not otherwise.  Those who have watched Shakspeare secretly working from real life will have no difficulty in taking this initial H to mean Herbert.

    I also think there may be a double entendre on the name of Lady Rich.  Speaking of HIS wife, in case HE should ever marry, Benedick says—"Rich she shall be, that's certain; an excellent musician; and her hair shall be of what colour it please God."  Be this as it may, we must glance at the character of Benedick-Herbert, who is pre-eminently a jester.  "He is the prince's jester."  He has the fancy for assuming strange disguises.  Claudio says of him, "Nay, but his jesting spirit which is now crept into a lutestring!" "The man doth fear God, howsoever it seems not in him, by some large jests he will make."  Such, for instance, as his suggestion of the parody of Sidney's Sonnets, and the jesting at Stella's own self-caricature!  Now, as the name of Herbert was Will, and as he is the youthful "Will" of the Sonnets, it is obvious that the name of Will is also punned on in the play.

"But what's your Will?
 Your answer, sir, is enigmatical:
 But, for my Will, my Will is, your good Will
 May stand with, ours, this day to be conjoined,"

                                                          &c.—Act V. sc. iv.

With a further likeness to line 12, Sonnet 151, which contains a pun that is reproduced in the play.  If Benedick be Herbert, then the original model for Beatrice is Lady Rich.  She who had no living likeness for brilliant wit and waywardness, and dare-devilry, and will.  Beatrice is a repetition of Rosaline, Sidney's Stella with her eyes and "brow of Egypt."  She who was the "Attending Star" on Cynthia in the earlier play is here born under a merry star.  "My mother cried; but then there was a star danced, and under that I was born."  The star that danced was Stella's.  Benedick says, "Till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come into my grace.  Rich she shall be, that's certain; an excellent musician (the lady in Sonnet 128 is called 'My Music'); and her hair shall be of what colour it please God."  "Fame," says Sidney, "doth even grow rich, meaning my Stella's name."  And it was so famed both as Rich and Stella that it could not be used without significance.

    Now if we take the date of 1599 for the year in which these Sonnets were written for Herbert, that was also about the time of the Merry Wives of Windsor, a play unmentioned by Meres, which was certainly not earlier than 1599.  And here, again, we may see reflections of the Latter Sonnets in the dramatic mirror.  The title of this play might be "Lust in Love."  The main motive of the huge comedy is to show Falstaff in love, or rather to make a merry mockery of his lustful humour when fattened for public exhibition.  "I think the best way were to entertain him with hope, till the wicked fire of lust have melted him in his own grease" (II. i.).  The subject is that "Lust in action" which is portrayed in the Sonnets, whether laughed at in jest or summed up seriously in two of them.  And this is Shakspeare's moral of the play as proclaimed in the Song of the Fairies—

                                            LUST.
               "Fie on sinful, Fantasy,
                 Fie on Lust and Luxury!
                 Lust is but a bloody fire,
                 Kindled with unchaste desire,
                 Fed in heart; whose flames aspire,
                As thoughts do blow them, higher and higher.
                Pinch him, fairies, mutually;
                Pinch him for his villainy;
 Pinch him, and burn him, and turn him about,
 Till candles, and star-light, and moon-shine be out."

    It is credibly enough reported that the great jest of Falstaff's false love was concocted by request of the Queen.  In the same way my suggestion is that the same subject of lust or false love was treated by request of Herbert in the Latter Sonnets as a continuation of Sidney's wooing of Lady Rich.  We see how the writer had Sidney in mind.  When Falstaff exclaims at sight of Mrs. Ford, "Have I caught (thee), heavenly jewel?" he is quoting the first line of Sidney's second Sonnet—

"Have I caught my heavenly jewel?"

The Sonnet says:—

"Love is too blind to know what conscience is;
 Yet who knows not conscience is born of love."

And Falstaff in the Merry Wives of Windsor exclaims, "Why, now is Cupid a child of conscience; he makes restitution!  Speak I like Herne the Hunter?"  Not in the least, one would say, but very like the Sonnet.

    The love without cause or reason, and the portrait of Age in love, are both reproduced in Falstaff's letter to Mrs. Page—"Ask me no reason why I love you; for though love use reason for his precision, he admits him not for his councillor.  You are not young, no more am I; go to then, there's sympathy.  You are merry, so am I; ha! ha! then there's more sympathy."

    Two of the Sonnets got into print in the Passionate Pilgrim, and if the cause of that were the laxity of Herbert, as one may justly suspect, this is possibly aimed at in the play, where there is an allusion to Falstaff's loveletters being printed.  "He will print them, out of doubt; for he cares not what he puts into the press."  This passage is underlined with a meaning beyond an application to Falstaff's letters.  The joke is doubled out of the play.  Two of the Sonnets amongst the Private Friends had been put into print, and the likeliest person to have allowed this was Master Will Herbert.

    Now, as before said, it is one of the fantastic follies of Mr. Furnivall, derived solely from misreading the Sonnets, that Shakspeare personally suffered a "Hell of time" as the result of his "sins of blood" and "slips in sensual mire," with his dark doxy of the Latter Sonnets.  He further maintains, that Shakspeare's fall into the dirt of degradation led to his sounding the profoundest depths of tragedy, and that the furnace-fire of Othello's jealousy and Lear's raging inferno of fierce passion were his own personal Hell of time turned inside out!  This personal experience and expiatory suffering are assumed to have preceded and to account for the "Unhappy third period" in Shakspeare's life, in which his greatest work was done, and he produced his Hamlet, Lear, Othello, and Macbeth.  In checking this insane conceit that Shakspeare's genius culminated in the depth of his moral degradation, Mr. Spedding administered a grave rebuke in a smiling manner when he said, "I should like to have a period of unhappiness like that!"  The same writer tells Mr. Furnivall, that the succession of Shakspeare's Plays and Periods is very much like what we might have naturally expected, "Without inventing any extraordinary spiritual trials in his private life to account for the changes."  We, are now able to demonstrate Mr. Furnivall's fallacy and completely demolish his inference.  The comparative process proves the relation of the Latter Sonnets to the play of the Merry Wives of Windsor; the subject of false love or lust in love is the same in both, and the moral is identical in each.  Two of the Sonnets supposed to tell the dark story against the Poet's character came into print in 1599, offering good evidence that the group to which they belonged was then extant.  Thus in 1599 the sin had been committed, the private tragedy was performed, and the consequent unhappy period had commenced with all its torments of remorse.  Now, no Shakspearean who has any insight into our Poet's workmanship, supported by other adequate knowledge, would venture to date this drama earlier than 1599.  Delius says 1600.  The comparative process tends to show that it belongs to or follows the year of those Herbert Sonnets which were extant in 1599.  And the Merry Wives contains the comedy of Shakspeare's unmitigated mirth.  In this the fullest ripeness of his humour is to be found for the first time, and the comedy is unchastened by a tear of sorrow, and untempered by a single sigh of sadness.  The play is wholly an uproarious creation of mirth, the loudest laugh that Shakspeare ever had.  It reeks with jollity as Falstaff did with fatness, and is as huge in its hilarity.  And this drama, which is the one that is entirely free from sadness, free from any sign of conscious guilt, remorse, or melancholy memories, would be the first product of the previous "Hell of time," supposed to have been suffered by the Poet in his Sonnets!  Indeed, the Merry Wives, Much Ado, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night—four perfect, cordial-hearted comedies—are the blithe plays that followed the Sonnets of 1599; and these come between them and the period of Shakspeare's mightiest workmanship, attained at last in his supremest tragedies, Lear, Othello, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.  So much for another foolish application to Shakspeare and his Plays of a false inference derived from the autobiographical misinterpretation of the Sonnets!

    According to the actual facts, not fancies nor fabrications, Shakspeare's Sonnets were first commenced on the model of Sidney's.  His arguments for marriage were taken bodily from the Arcadia, and reproduced in verse with an application to the circumstances of Southampton.  This fact is indisputable, and established for ever.  The same thing occurs with a difference in the Latter Sonnets.  Here we find the like imitation of Sidney; the same borrowing of his argument, the same eyes in mourning, and the same blackness above all other beauty which had been celebrated by him.  The lady aimed at is the one, the incomparable Stella, who had no living likeness; whose complexion was so rare that it set a new fashion in beauty; unique enough to be inimitable.

    The Sonnets were written in an emulative continuation of Sidney's, and that which differentiates them from Sidney's is mainly to be found in the later character and characteristics of the same Lady Rich who was besung by both with twenty years between.  In the Latter as in the earlier Sonnets, those on lust equally with those on love, we are enabled to set foot on the ground of fact with the aid of Sidney's Sonnets.  Stella is further identified as Lady Rich by name; again in imitation of Sidney in his punning on the name of Rich.  Moreover, the black beauty of Stella is doubly identified by means of her moral blackness conventionally considered and publicly proclaimed.  She is trebly identified by her age (which was suppressed and smuggled out of sight in the second version of Sonnet 138) in relation or in opposition to the youth of the speaker, who is characterized as the child in love, and whose name is Will.  Lady Rich is identifiably portrayed as the woman of "proud heart" so currishly betrayed by her brother as one who needed to be looked after; she who was so "becoming of things ill," that in the "very refuse" of her deeds her worst exceeded "all best."  Such was the strength and warrant of her skill and glamourie.

    My explanation of the Latter Sonnets, then, is, that they were written for Will Herbert in 1599, just after the appearance of certain Sonnets and Songs of Sidney's, which were printed for the first time in the 1598 edition of his Arcadia; that they were written on the same person as subject who had been the object of Sidney's Sonnets, at the suggestion of Master Will Herbert, the nephew of Sidney; that Herbert is the speaker whose name is "Will," and who is portrayed as the youth in love with Age in Sonnets 138-143.  That Sidney's "Stella" is to be identified as the lady with the mourning eyes in Sonnets 127 and 132, compared with Sidney's; that she is not only one with Stella in her likeness to nature and the unique unlikeness of both to anybody else, but can also be identified by the puns upon her name of Rich which culminate in Sonnet 135, where the speaker describes her as being Rich in Will, and desires that she will complete the antithesis by making him Will in Rich.

    My further explanation is, that the Sonnets thus suggested were written in a capping imitation of Sidney's; that the assumed infatuation of "Will" (Herbert) is a capping imitation of Sidney's passion; and that so far as the passion is unreal, the Sonnets assume the character of a burlesque on Sidney's founded on the changes in the character of Stella.

    Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother, had already characterized her brother's "Love-lays" addressed to Stella as "Merry Riddles"; and here we have another "merry riddle" on the same subject of bewitched affection suggested by her son, in which the likenesses are close enough to Sidney's Sonnets to determine the nature of Shakspeare's.  I would not call Shakspeare's Sonnets merely an intentional caricature of Sidney's Sonnets.  It was the lady herself who had caricatured the likeness drawn of her in early life by Sidney.  They are not simply an imitation of Sidney's, nor a plagiarism, nor a parody, but a mixture of all three, only to be understood when we know that Stella, the same person with the changed character, is the lady aimed at, at least as the subject if not the object of these Sonnets.  For example, in Sidney's lines from Sidera, on p. 249, which were first printed in 1598, there is an allusion to a future possibility that is ineffably pathetic, a note as piercing as the sudden cry in the nightingale's song—

"If either you would change your cruel heart,
 Or cruel still, Time did your beauty stain;
 If from my soul this love would once depart,
 Or for my love some love I might attain,
 Then might I hope a change, or ease of mind
 By your good help, or in myself to find."

And when Shakspeare wrote Time had stained the brilliant beauty, but she was "cruel still," and as tyrannous in the waning lustre of her fading charms, her "insufficiency," as any of the younger ones, "whose beauties proudly make them cruel."

    It has now been demonstrated that the Latter Sonnets are not merely what professor Minto (who followed in the footprints of Henry Brown) has called "exercises of skill undertaken in a spirit of wanton defiance and derision of COMMONPLACE"!  At the same time, the identification of their real motif in relation to Sidney's proves that they contain no personal revelation of the Poet's life or love.

    A few last words on Mary Fytton as the Dark Lady of these Latter Sonnets.  The odds are a thousand to one against her in favour of Penelope Rich.  But I have no personal bias in the matter.  If Mr. Tyler could show that there were two women of the same character within and complexion without as Lady Rich; if he could prove that Mary Fytton was an infamous married woman in 1599, my interpretation of the Sonnets on the dramatic theory would still hold the field, even if Lady Rich were proved to be the unfit 'un.  The speaker would still be "Will" by name, and I should still contend that he was "Will" Herbert for whom these Latter Sonnets were written.  But this has yet to be done.

    Mr. Tyler's contention is, that Mary Fytton was Shakspeare's paramour in 1599; that she was then the known breaker of her marriage vows, the "bay where all men ride," the "wide world's common place;" a harlot whose philtre of her physical charms had been drunken by her lovers to the dregs; a false, a foul, and fallen woman, abhorred by others, who was in the "very refuse" of her evil "deeds"; that she was then, in 1599, as the Sonnet shows, old enough to be laughed at as "Age in love."  And Mr. Tyler is guileless enough to suppose that two years later William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, could be charged with seducing her, and that be was put into prison for begetting her with child!  He does not explain HOW the child could be sworn to Herbert!  Why not to Shakspeare, or even to her own husband?

    Mr. Tyler has failed to show the same caution that was exercised by the negro who, on being asked the conundrum, "Who was the father of Eve's first child?" replied, "Who did Adam suspect?"  He has no doubt that the child was Herbert's; that the mother was Shakspeare's Mistress; that she was the married wife of somebody else; that she was still a maid of honour, a great favourite of the Queen's, and still known at Court in 1600 by her maiden name of Fytton.  But if Mary Fytton had been one in character with the Dark Lady in 1599, when two of these Sonnets were printed, it is for ever impossible that she could have fathered a child upon Lord Pembroke in 1601.  Credat Judæus!  And Mr. Tyler adduces no evidence whatever to suggest that Mary Fytton was a married woman of immoral character in the refuse of her deeds; no evidence of her having been either married or divorced in 1600, when she figured at Court under her own maiden name, and was in high favour with the Queen; no allusions to her being black-eyed or swarthy of complexion.  Moreover, if Mrs. Fytton had been the "Cause" of Herbert's disgrace and imprisonment, if she did bear a child to him in 1601, Herbert's passion must have been real and fruitful; but that would not then be the passion portrayed in the Latter Sonnets.

    The letter from Sir Edward Fytton, Mrs. Fytton's father, written January 29, 1599, compared with another letter of August 5, 1600, as quoted by Mr. Tyler, [88] appears to tell directly against his interpretation.  A sum of £1200 seems to have been due to Sir Edward Fytton for service in Ireland.  This being left standing over, was assigned by him to his daughter as a marriage portion ("her porçon")—obviously when she should be married!  The money remained in the hands of the Irish treasurer, Sir Henry Wallop, an objection having been made to paying it over to Mrs. Fytton on the ground that "a good discharge" could not be obtained.  Sir Edward protested that a sufficient discharge had already been given in accordance with the terms prescribed by Sir Henry Wallop.  Here the difficulty about paying the money intended for a marriage portion evidently arose from the lady's not being married, and consequently from the absence of the proper person to give the legal receipt and quittance.  And so as an unmarried woman she could father a child on Herbert a year later, and he could be expected to marry her.

    The Earl of Pembroke on being examined, "confesseth to the fact" that he is the guilty one, but he "utterly renounceth all marriage."  This suffices to show there was some suggestion of marriage, and to prove that Mary was marriageable, therefore not married at the time.  All the evidence points to her not being married, and to her being marriageable in 1601, when Herbert made his double declaration, and therefore to the impossibility of her being the faithless married woman of the Sonnets.  Besides which, if it could be demonstrated that she had been married, and was Herbert's mistress in 1600, that would not prove her to have been Shakspeare's trull the year or several years previously.

    Mary Fytton, born in 1578, was but twenty-one in the year that Sonnet 138 appeared in the Passionate Pilgrim, when no whisper had been breathed against her, and no warrant given for an unmanly attempt to fly-blow her maiden fame and taint her character before the time with any such mental maggots as these.  Mr. Tyler's unfounded charge against Mary Fytton and Shakspeare is more indecent than anything in Brown's indictment.  Yet the parrots of the press will hail this as the solution of a problem, and are already crying "Pretty Polly"!  At present, however, any link between Shakspeare and Mary Fytton has to be forged by means of a false inference, in defiance of facts the most fatal to the theory.

    It would have been far less grossly improbable if Mr. Tyler had maintained the hypothesis that Shakspeare wrote the Latter Sonnets on William Herbert's amour with Mary Fytton, instead of making them personal to the Poet himself, and thus becoming responsible for the puerile suggestion that such a worthless wanton as is portrayed by Shakspeare in 1599 could be seduced by Herbert in 1600, and become the cause of his being sent to prison in 1601 as the father of her child.  But the Brownites will clutch at any delusion in the blind belief that the Sonnets must be autobiographical.

    Whatsoever the object of the Sonnets, the starry lady with the mourning eyes, whose blackness was above all beauty, the Lascivious Grace, the "fair woman with a black soul," the lady whose name of Rich is punned upon by "Will" in Sonnets 135-6, remains the subject of Shakspeare's Latter Sonnets, Mary Fytton and all other sirens, swarthy or otherwise, notwithstanding.  It is not the name of Fytton but Rich that "flesh" rises at, when it is content to be her "POOR" drudge (Sonnet 151).  It is "Rich in Will" and Will in Rich, not Fytton (Sonnets 135-6).  And in the true Shakspearean antithesis to the "poor soul" of Sonnet 146 the name is "Rich," not Fytton.   It was Lady Rich that Sidney loved and wrote about, not Mary Fytton; and Shakspeare's Sonnets follow his.

    Further, the lady of the Latter Sonnets is the same, feature for feature, as Rosaline in Love's Labour's Lost; identical in character and complexion, her "light condition in a beauty dark," her sumptuous sexual grace, her wayward wanton wilfulness, and imperious tyranny; therefore the original of both was known to Shakspeare as early as 1591.  This could not have been Mary Fytton, who was then a girl of thirteen.  But Rosaline IS Stella by nature and by name AS the moon's "attending star,"—like Lady Rich at the Court of Cynthia,—to whom Biron says—

"We number nothing that we spend for you,
 Our duty is so rich, so infinite,
 That we may do it still without accompt."

And again—

                                                 "Your Capacity
Is of that nature, that to your huge store,
Wise things seem foolish, and rich things seem poor."

And such is the lady addressed in Sonnets 135-6,—which should be closely compared with the play,—who is "rich in will," "large and spacious" in Will, and of limitless capacity; "one that will do the deed though Argus were her eunuch and her guard" (III. i.).

    There is yet that last trump-card to play which, as in the case of the Sonnet on "Barley-Break," suffices to win the game.

    The argument all through these Latter Sonnets is more or less Sidney's, though not always drawn from his Sonnets nor his prose.  In the fifth song of Astrophel and Stella her poet threatens to turn round on Lady Rich, and put out the glory of her picture that he has painted—"stain her white with vagabonding shame," unsay all that he has sworn of her lovable beauty, and proclaim to all the world that in loving such a woman so blindly, so madly, he himself must have been insane!  He tells her "the same key can open which can lock up a treasure."  He will strip her of the false feathers in which she has soared sky-high on the wings of his earlier verse.  Feature by feature he will disfigure and defame her, he who had spent himself so fruitlessly in her praise.  He calls her a thief.  "Rich in all joys," she robs him of his joy.  He denounces her as a rebel and a murderer.   He charges her with being a tyrant and a traitor.  She is a witch, and worse.   She is a devil.  But it is necessary to reprint the entire song, which is dark with "Ethiope words."

"While favour fed my hope, delight with hope was brought;
 Thought waited on delight, and speech did follow thought;
 Then grew my tongue and pen records unto thy glory,
 I thought all words were lost that were not spent of thee;
 I thought each place was dark but where thy lights would be,
 And all ears worse than deaf that heard not out thy story.

 I said thou wert most fair, and so indeed thou art;
 I said thou wert most sweet, sweet poison to my heart;
 I said my soul was thine, O that I then had lied;
 I said thine eyes were stars, thy breast the milky way,
 Thy fingers Cupid's shafts, thy voice the angel's lay:
 And all I said so well, as no man it denied.

 But now that hope is lost, unkindness kills delight;
 Yet thought and speech do live, though metamorphosed quite,
 For rage now rules the reins which guided were by pleasure;
 I think now of thy faults, who late thought of thy praise;
 That speech falls now to blame, which did thy honour raise:
 The same key open can, which can lock up a treasure!

 Then thou, whom partial heavens conspired in one to frame
 The proof of Beauty's worth, th'inheritrix of fame,
 The mansion state of bliss, and just excuse of lovers;
 See now those feathers pluckt, wherewith thou flewest most high:
 See what clouds of reproach shall dark thy honour's sky:
 Whose own fault cast him down hardly high state recovers.

 And, O my Muse, though oft you lulled her in your lap,
 And then, a heavenly child, gave her ambrosian pap,
 And to that brain of hers your kindest gifts infused;
 Since she, disdaining me, doth you in me disdain,
 Suffer not her to laugh, while both we suffer pain:
 Princes in subjects' wrong must deem themselves abused!

 Your client poor myself, shall Stella handle so:
 Revenge! Revenge! my Muse! defiance' trumpet blow;
 Threaten! what may be done, yet do more than you threaten!
 Ah, my suit granted is, I feel my breast doth swell;
 Now, child, a lesson new you shall begin to spell;
 Sweet babes must babies have, but shrewed girls must be beaten.

 Think now no more to hear of warm fine-odoured snow,
 Nor blushing lilies, nor pearls' ruby-hidden row,
 Nor of that golden sea, whose waves in curls are broken;
 But of thy soul, so fraught with such ungratefulness,
 As where thou soon might'st help, most Faith dost most oppress;
 Ungrateful, who is called, the worst of evils is spoken.

 Yet worse than worst, I say thou art a Thief—a Thief,
 Now God forbid! a Thief! and of worst thieves the chief:
 Thieves steal for need, and steal but goods which pain recovers,
 But thou, Rich in all joys, dost rob my joys from me,
 Which cannot be restored by time or industry:
 Of foes the spoil is evil, far worse of constant lovers.

 Yet—gentle English thieves do rob, but will not slay,
 Thou English-murdering Thief, wilt have hearts for thy prey:
 The name of Murderer now on thy fair forehead sitteth,
 And even while I do speak, my death-wounds bleeding be,
 Which, I protest, proceed from only cruel thee:
 Who may, and will not save, murder in truth committeth.

 But murder, private fault, seems but a toy to thee:
 I lay then to thy charge unjustest tyranny,
 If rule, by force, without all claim, a Tyrant showeth;
 For thou dost lord my heart, who am not born thy slave,
 And, which is worse, makes me most guiltless torments have;
 A rightful prince by unright deeds a tyrant groweth.

 Lo, you grow proud with this, for tyrants make folk bow:
 Of foul rebellion then I do appeach thee now,
 Rebel by Nature's law, Rebel by law of Reason:
 Thou, sweetest subject wert, born in the realm of love,
 And yet against thy prince thy force dost daily prove:
 No virtue merits praise, once touched with blot of treason.

 But valiant rebels oft in fools' mouths purchase fame:
 I now then stain thy white with vagabonding shame,
 Both rebel to the son and vagrant from the mother;
 For wearing Venus' badge in every part of thee,
 Unto Diana's train thou, runaway, didst flee:
 Who faileth one is false, though trusty to another.

 What, is not this enough? nay, far worse cometh here;
 A Witch, I say, thou art, though thou so fair appear;
 For, I protest, my sight never thy face enjoyeth,
 But I in me am changed, I am alive and dead;
 My feet are turned to roots, my heart becometh lead:
 No witchcraft is so evil as which man's mind destroyeth!

 Yet Witches may repent; thou art far worse than they:
 Alas that I am forced such evil of thee to say!
 I say thou art a Devil, though clothed in angel's shining;
 For thy face tempts my soul to leave the heaven for thee,
 And thy words of refuse do pour even hell on me:
 Who tempt, and tempting plague, are devils in true defining.

 You, then, ungrateful Thief, you murdering Tyrant, you,
 You Rebel runaway, to lord and lady untrue,
 You Witch, you Devil,—alas! you still of me beloved,
 You see what I can say; mend yet your froward mind,
 And such skill in my Muse, you, reconciled, shall find,
 That all these cruel words your praises shall be proved."
                                                                     Astrophel and Stella, Song V.

    Thus we see that the blackening of Stella's character by abuse was first performed by Sidney's own pen.  And this was one of the poems that were printed for the first time in the edition of 1598.  Here, then, we at last attain the starting point of the Herbert Sonnets for following them on the track of Sidney's.

    When Shakspeare wrote, Stella had fulfilled in real earnest all that her poet and lover has here charged her with in his mad unmeaning or unmeasuring mood.  The fact was notorious at the time, that Stella had become the blackened beauty in real life, as painted in the Latter Sonnets.  Sidney's "words of refuse" had been realized by her in the "refuse of her deeds,"—the very language of Sidney being thus intensified by Shakspeare in his 150th Sonnet.

    Of course if Penelope Rich be the lady of these Sonnets, she is not the Lady Rich of Sidney's love.  Time and the turn of things have had their way.  She is now getting on for forty, although one of those who never do feel forty.  The lustres of youth, including her hair, have somewhat dimmed; the splendour of her beauty has been doubly tarnished.  Besides, it was not the writer's cue to praise, the description was not intended to flatter.  He never meant to laud the golden garniture of her sunshiny head-the "yellow locks that shone so bright and long" in Spenser's verse, and glowed so in Sidney's eyes.  He does not bring forward that "glistering foil" of her hair in contrast with the blackness of her eyes; that is only, though very markedly, implied.  Her cheeks also are compared to the "grey cheeks of the east," and the "sober west" in their faded paleness, having lost the young red that used to flush up when the smile took its rosy rise from the cupid-cornered mouth, and suffused them in a soft auroral bloom, "as of rose-leaves a little stirred" with the warm breath of Sidney's love.  This is Lady Rich with the spring-freshness gone, the blushing graces withdrawn.  Lady Rich in the remnant to of her loveliness and refuse of her deeds, not merely the refuse of Sidney's wild and whirling words, the deepening shadows of her character made it impossible, had he been so minded, for Shakspeare to laud her like Sidney had done, as "that virtuous soul, sure heir of heavenly bliss" and "rich in those gifts which give the eternal crown."  Nor did he look on her through Sidney's eyes.  He had seen and heard of her later gifts and graces.  Yet, in spite of the touch of time, and the waste of a passionate life in her intense face—in spite of the descriptions which so tend to defeature the image set up by Sidney—we cannot but recognize the lady of the mourning eyes, the complexion beyond the reach of Art, and know her by the original likeness that passes all likeness of imitation.  Changed and changing as she is, there is all the old fire, and in her plainness she is proudly cruel as those who are in the first blush of their budding-time.  And the black eyes remain imperial as of old in their infatuating charm; cunning as ever in their black art—full of the old spells, with a power to haunt through life—like the weird eyes of a dream.

    It must be confessed that Shakspeare betrays great boyishness in thus entering into the other boy's jesting mood, as if this were one aspect of that Elizabethan boyishness which characterizes some of the men whom we picture mentally each with an arm around the other's neck.  Sidney in his love was just a beautiful boy; as such he failed to marry and man his Stella.  In his life and death he was a boy-like hero.  In his poetry he remains an immortal boy.  But boyish humour is apt to degenerate into coarseness and horse-play.

    Shakspeare certainly did play the boy for Herbert,—he being thirty-six years of age himself,—and may have thought afterwards that he had played the fool for his amusement.  But at the same time he also plays the man.  He nowhere plays the pimp or pander to the passion, whether we look upon it as real or only assumed for the purpose of Sonneteering.

    I have now presented the evidence and demonstrated the fact beyond all question or cavilling for those who are free to face it and are capable of forming an accurate opinion, that Shakspeare's Latter Sonnets, like his first, were founded on Sidney's.  I have shown that he has adopted Sidney's themes, his moods, his hints, and at times his thoughts and expressions, and turned them to ulterior account in giving another version of the same subject—as if Herbert had pitted the one Poet against the other, who was to write of the same lady under the changed circumstances.  These themes begin with the lady who made blackness beautiful with her eyes in mourning, the extension of the theme by Shakspeare being shown by continuing that blackness into the moral domain, and sonneteering her as beautiful in the blackness of her character and the "refuse of her deeds."  It has been shown that the lady is the same by the nature of her complex charm—her starry eyes, her potency of sexual power, her boundless capacity of will, and the puns upon her name of "Rich," as well as by the allusions to "Stella" in her later years; Stella as the proudly cruel tyrant, the fatal temptress, the murderous thief, the manhood-melting witch, the devil in angel-guise.  Theme after theme, including that of desire or lust, and the solemn address to the soul, have been identified as Sidney's.  And we must sink down to the nethermost depth of nincompoopery to suppose that Shakspeare in the plenitude of his powers, at the time when his original faculty was in its full consummate flower, when his art was supreme, and his genius had come to the perfect orb of its never-waning glory, would turn back again to imitate or mimic, burlesque and satirize, Sidney, in what would look like a set of school boy exercises written in an old copybook if he were the speaker in these Latter Sonnets, making most incredible confessions on an amour of his own; confiding them to his private Diary or his "private friends," and at the same time obviously drawing the subject matter from the Sonnets of Sidney, and exaggerating his exaggeration, feature by feature, line by line, in Sonnet after Sonnet!  That is simply inconceivable, and, as the metaphysicians say, totally incapable of being positively imaged.  In thus trying to think of our Poet sitting in sackcloth, self-dishonoured, self-dethroned, in the place where he had dug the grave of his own good repute for honesty, manliness, common sense, and the shrewdest sagacity, and deliberately buried it with his own hands, we should be simply and unnecessarily damning ourselves, not Shakspeare.

    But he HAS gone back to outdo Sidney.  He HAS taken his cues from Sidney.  He has adopted arguments, imagery, and puns from Sidney.  He has reproduced the beauty in black, the raven eyes that mourned in black, the black stars that were the eyes of Sidney's Stella; he has painted her as black all over, as "black as hell, as dark as night," after she had somewhat realized the extravagant declarations of Sidney.  He has likewise punned upon the lady's married name of Rich, in obviously intentional imitation of Sidney.  In short, he has responded to an encore and a recall made for Sidney.  All this would be rigorously impossible without, some other purpose than that of wooing a wanton for himself with Sonnets that could not have served his turn.  Sidney's Sonnets had been published, and were better known than his own.  They were well known to the "'private friends" for whom Shakspeare's were written.  The satire of allusions to personal character could not be recognized nor the hints taken except by those who were familiar with Sidney's, with Stella herself, her complexion, age, and character, when she had become the black star, the breaker of marriage vows, and the skilful political plotter in later life.  Therefore my final conclusion is, that the Latter Sonnets were composed at William Herbert's request on the same subject as Sidney's, with the variations introduced by Lady Rich's later life and character.  Such is the riddle read at last.

    It is a matter of indifference to my present argument whether there was any liaison or not betwixt Herbert and Lady Rich; the view that there was could not be successfully combated on the score of reputation, as he was a libertine and she a Light-o'-Love.  Moreover, it is noteworthy that Lady Rich had five children after leaving her first husband's bed, whereas Lord Mountjoy only acknowledged and provided for three of them.

   But it is enough for my purpose to show that Stella is the person covertly aimed at by "Will" Herbert as speaker of the Latter Sonnets, which show the reverse to the obverse of the same poetic coinage.  If there was any real infatuation, then Shakspeare has laughed at and made fun of the passion professed by Herbert, as in Sonnets 138 and 143; he has fought against it in Sonnets 131, 137, 148, and he has seriously rebuked it in Sonnets 129 and 146.

    In reply to one of Languet's letters Sidney wrote—

"Alas, have I not pain enough, my friend,
 Upon whose breast a fiercer gripe [89] doth tire
 Than did on him who first stole down the fire,
 While Love on me doth all his quiver spend,—
 But with your
RHUBARB-WORDS ye must contend,
 To grieve me worse,—in saying that desire
 Doth, plunge my well-formed soul even in the mire
 Of sinful thoughts, which, do in ruin end?
"

And in Sonnets 129, 146, and others, Shakspeare writes as if he were administering HIS medicine in the character of Languet.

    But it is not necessary to assume one, and it is certain that the Sonnets could not have promoted any love-suit with the lady; enough that the themes are based upon Sidney's.

    Whatsoever the confusion outside of the Sonnets, Shakspeare has left us a summing-up by the best of all judges—himself—within.  He tells us that the long early series was written on love in truth, and on truth in love.  He is just as emphatic in showing that the subject of the Latter Sonnets is lust or Falsehood in Love.  I regret having to show that Shakspeare should have been induced to parody Sidney's Sonnets in this way.  But there is the fact, and no help for it.  That, at least, is no moot question henceforth.  The thing was done indubitably and indelibly.  This remains the truth independently of the question as to what the purpose was, or who the persons were.  The conditions under which the Latter Sonnets were written further show that the Herbert Series could not have been composed by the Poet with any thought of publication, consequently the sin against Sidney, the profanity of parody, and the cruelty to Lady Rich, were limited to the writer and instigator so long as the Sonnets were preserved in their privacy.  Nor were they printed until after the death of Stella, and then, as already shown, with the evident intention of not unveiling the dark lady's face and age in open court.

    The sum of Shakspeare's offence now is, that he lent his pen to "fashion this false sport "for young Will Herbert, and extended the jest to a burlesque of some of Sidney's Sonnets, but most certainly with no thought of the thing going beyond the privacy of a privileged friendship.  All was changed by the Sonnets being put into print.  Thus, at the risk of making the personal theorists look confounded and foolish, we have now reduced the greatest of all Shakspearean tragedies to the proportions of a comedy or a farce.  Indeed, the Latter Sonnets contain the farce or afterpiece that followed the serious and even tragical realities of the Southampton Series.


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Footnotes.

[86.](page 254)   Poems, written by WilIiam, Earl of Pembroke, many of which are answered by Sir William Rudyard; with other poems written by them, occasionally and apart. 1650.  Of these poems Mr. Hallam observes—"Some are grossly indecent, but they throw no light whatever on the Sonnets of Shakspeare."

[87.](page 255)   i.e. surprise.

[88.](page 261)   Shakspear's Sonnets.  Fac-simile photographed from the First Quarto, and published by C. Praetorius, 14 Clareville Grove, Hereford Square, London.

[89.](page 267)   "Gripe doth tire" = Harpy doth flesh itself.

 



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