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“ The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die;
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds ;
The thought is here quite perfect, and the image of the last line is continued from the 11th and 12th, ending in a natural climax. But we have precisely the same line as the last in a play of Shakspere's age-one, indeed, which has been attributed to himself, “ The Reign of King Edward III.' Let us transcribe the passage where it occurs, in the scene where Warwick exhorts his daughter to resist the dangerous addresses of the King :
“ That sin doth ten times aggravate itself
That is committed in a holy place :
We doubt, exceedingly, whether the author of the 94th Sonnet, where the image of the festering lilies is a portion of the thought which has preceded it, would have transplanted it from the play, where it stands alone as an apophthegm. It seems more probable that the author of the play would have borrowed a line from one of the “sugared sonnets amongst private friends.” The extreme fastidiousness required in the composition of the Sonnet, according to the poetical notions of that day, would not have warranted the adaptation of a line from a drama “sundry times played about the city of London," as the title-page tells us this was; but the play, without any injury to its poetical reputation (to which, indeed, in the matter of plays, little respect was paid), might take a line from the Sonnet. Our reasoning may be defective, but our impression of the matter is very strong. The play was published in 1596, after being "sundry times played " in different theatres. William Herbert must have begun his career of licentiousness unusually early, and have bad time to make a friend and abuse his confidence before he was fifteen -if the line is original in the Sonnet.
The last point to which we shall very briefly draw the reader's attention is the doubt which has been stated whether the hundred and fifty-four Sonnets published in 1609 were the same as Meres mentioned, in 1598, as amongst the compositions of Shakspere, and familiar to his “ private friends." Mr. Hallam thinks they are not the same,“ both on account of the date, and from the peculiarly personal allusions they contain." One of the strongest of the personal allusions is contained in the 144th, originally printed in “The Passionate Pilgrim.' Where could the printer of The Passionate Pilgrim ’have obtained that Sonnet except from some one of Shakspere's " private friends ?" If he so obtained it, why might not the collector of the volume of 1609 have obtained others of a similar character from a similar source ? Would such productions have been circulated at all if they had been held to contain a peculiarly personal allusions ?" If these are not the Sonnets
which circulated amongst Shakspere's “ private friends," where are those Sonnets ? Would Meres have spoken of them as calling to mind the sweetness of Ovid if only those published in “The Passionate Pilgrim' had existed, many of which were “ Verses to Music," afterwards printed as such ? Why should those Sonnets only have been printed which contain, or are supposed to contain, “ peculiarly personal allusions ?” The title-page of the collection of 1609 is . Shake-speare's Sonnets.' We can only reconcile these matters with our belief that in 1609 were printed, without the cognizance of the author, all the Sonnets which could be found attributed to Shakspere ; that some of these formed a group of continuous poems; that some were detached ; that no exact order could be preserved; and that accident has arranged them in the form in which they first were handed down to us.
If we have succeeded in producing satisfactory evidence that many of the Sonnets are not presented in a natural and proper order in the original edition,if we bave shown that there is occasionally not only a digression from the prevailing train of thought, by the introduction of an isolated Sonnet amongst a group, but a jarring and unmeaning interruption to that train of thought,
-we have established a case that the original arrangement is no part of the poet's work, because that arrangement violates the principles of art, which Shakspere clings to with such marvellous judgment in all his other productions. The inference, therefore, is that the author of the Sonnets did not sanction their publication-certainly did not superintend it. This, we think, may be proved by another course of argument. The edition of 1609, although, taken as a whole, not very inaccurate, is full of those typographical errors which invariably occur when a manuscript is put into the hands of a printer to deal with it as he pleases, without reference to the author, or to any competent editor, upon any doubtful points. Malone, in a note upon the 77th Sonnet, very truly says, “ This, their, and thy are so often confounded in these Sonnets, that it is only by attending to the context that we can discover which was the author's word.” He is speaking of the original edition. It is evident, therefore, that in the progress of the book through the press there was no one capable of deciphering the obscurity of the manuscript by a regard to the context. The manuscript, in all probability, was made up of a copy of copies; so that the printer even was not responsible for those errors which so clearly show the absence of a presiding mind in the conduct of the printing. Malone has suggested that these constantly recurring mistakes in the use of this, their, thy, and thine, probably originated in the words being abbreviated in the manuscript, according to the custom of the time. But this species of mistake is by no means uniform. For example: from the 43rd to the 48th Sonnet these errors occur with remarkable frequency; in one Sonnet, the 46th, this species of mistake happens four times. But we read on, and presently find that we may trust to the printed copy, which does not now violate the context. What can we infer from this, but that the separate poems were printed from different manuscripts in which various systems of writing were employed,—some using abbreviations, some rejecting them! If the one poem, as the first hundred and twenty-six Sonnets are called, had been printed either from the author's manuscript, or from an uniform copy of the author's manuscript, such differences of systematic error in some places, and of systematic correctness in others, would have been very unlikely to have occurred. If the poem had been printed under the author's eye, their existence would have been impossible.
The theory that the first hundred and twenty-six Sonnets were a continuous poem, or poems, addressed to one person, and that a very young man—and that the greater portion of the remaining twenty-eight Sonnets had reference to a female, with whom there was an illicit attachment on the part of the poet and the young man-involves
some higher difficulties, if it is assumed that the publication was authorized by the author, or by the person to whom they are held to be addressed. Could Shak. spere, in 1609, authorize or sanction their publication ! He was then living at Stratford, in the enjoyment of wealth ; he was forty-five years of age; he was naturally desirous to associate with himself all those circumstances which constitute respectability of character. If the Sonnets had regard to actual circumstances connected with his previous career, would he, a husband, a father of two daughters, have authorized a publication so calculated to degrade him in the eyes of his family and his associates, if the verses could bear the construction now put upon them? We think not. On the other hand, did the one person to whom they are held to be addressed sanction their publication? Would Lord Pembroke have suffered himself to be styled “ W. H., the only begetter of these ensuing Sonnets" -plain Mr. W. H.—he, a nobleman, with all the pride of birth and rank about him—and represented in these poems as a man of licentious habits, and treacherous in his licentiousness? The Earl of Pembroke, in 1609, had attained great honours in his political and learned relations. In the 1st year of James I. he was made a Knight of the Garter; in 1605, upon a visit of James to Oxford, he received the degree of Master of Arts; in 1607 he was appointed Governor of Portsmouth; and, more than all these honours, he was placed in the highest station by public opinion; he was, as Clarendon describes, “ the most universally beloved and esteemed of any man of that age." Was this the man, in his mature years, distinctly to sanction a publication which it was understood recorded his profligacy? He was of “excellent parts, and a graceful speaker upon any subject, having a good proportion of learning, and a ready wit to apply to it," says Clarendon. Is there in the Sonnets the slightest allusion to the talents of the one person to whom they are held to be addressed? If, then, the publication was not authorized, in either of the modes assumed, we have no warrant whatever for having regard to the original order of the Sonnets, and in assuming a continuity because of that order. What then is the alternative? That the Sonnets were a collection of “Sibylline leaves" rescued from the perishableness of their written state by some person who had access to the high and brilliant circle in which Shakspere was esteemed; and that this person's scrap-book, necessarily imperfect, and pretending to no order, found its way to the hands of a bookseller, who was too happy to give to that age what its most distinguished man had written at various periods, for his own amusement, and for the gratification of his “ private friends."
We subjoin, for the more ready information of those who may be disposed to examine for themselves the question of the order of Shakspere's Sonnets (and it really is a question of great interest and rational curiosity), the results of the two opposite theories—of their exhibiting almost perfect continuity, on the one hand; and of their being a mere collection of fragments, on the other. The one theory is illustrated with much ingenuity by Mr. Brown; the other was capriciously adopted by the editor of the collection of 1640.
Mr. Brown's Division INTO Sıx Poems.
First Poem.-Stanzas i. to xxvi. To his Friend, persuading him to Marry.
and warning him of Life's Decay.
Fourth Poem.-Stanzas lxxviii. to ci. To his Friend, complaining that he prefers
another Poet's Praises, and reproving him for faults that may injure his
character. Fifth Poem.-Stanzas cii. to cxxvi. To his Friend, excusing himself for having
been sometimes silent, and disclaiming the charge of Inconstancy. Sixth Poem.-Stanzas cxxvii, to clii. To his Mistress, on her Infidelity.
ARRANGEMENT OF THE EDITION OF 1640. * In this arrangement the greater part of the Poems of "The Passionate Pilgrim'
are blended, and are bere marked P. P. In this collection the following
The Glory of Beauty. [67, 68, 69.]
Careless Neglect. [48.]