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THE subject of this tragedy was a favourite with the early poets. We find it in 'The Mirror of Magistrates,' in Spenser, and in Drayton; occupying seven stanzas of The Faery Queen' (Book II., Canto 10), and fifty lines of the Poly-Olbion.' The legend of Brutus is circumstantially related in Milton's History of England,' where the story of Locrine is told with the power of a poet :
"After this, Brutus, in a chosen place, builds Troja Nova, changed in time to Trinovantum, now London, and began to enact laws, Heli being then high priest in Judæa; and, having governed the whole isle twenty-four years, died, and was buried in his new Troy. His three sons, Locrine, Albanact, and Camber, divide the land by consent. Locrine has the middle part, Lægria; Camber possessed Cambria, or Wales; Albanact, Albania, now Scotland. But he in the end, by Humber, king of the Hunns, who with a fleet invaded that land, was slain in fight, and his people drove back into Loegria. Locrine and his brother go out against Humber; who, now marching onwards, was by them defeated, and in a river drowned, which to this day retains his name. Among the spoils of his camp and navy were found certain young maids, and Estrildis above the rest, passing fair, the daughter of a king in Germany; from whence Humber, as he went wasting the sea-coast, had led her captive; whom Locrine, though before contracted to the daughter of Corineus, resolves to marry. But being forced and threatened by Corineus, whose authority and power he feared, Guendolen the daughter he yields to marry, but in secret loves the other: and ofttimes retiring, as to some private sacrifice, through vaults and passages made under ground, and seven years thus enjoying her, had by her a daughter equally fair, whose name was Sabra. But when once his fear was off by the death of Corineus, not content with secret enjoyment, divorcing Guendolen, he made Estrildis now his queen. Guendolen, all in rage, departs into Cornwall, where Madan, the son she had by Locrine, was hitherto brought up by Corineus, his grandfather. And gathering an army of her father's friends and subjects, gives battle to her husband by the river Sture; wherein Locrine, shot with an arrow, ends his life. But not so ends the fury of Guendolen ; for Estrildis, and her daughter Sabra, she throws into a river; and, to leave a monument of revenge, proclaims that the stream be thenceforth called after the damsel's name, which, by length of time, is changed now to Sabrina, or Severn."
In 'Comus' Milton lingers with delight about the same story:
"There is a gentle nymph not far from hence,
That with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream,
Sabrina is her name, a virgin pure;
Whilome she was the daughter of Locrine,
That had the sceptre from his father Brute.
Commended her fair innocence to the flood,
That stay'd her flight with his cross-flowing course."
The tragedy of Locrine' was originally printed in quarto, under the following title: The lamentable Tragedie of Locrine, the eldest sonne of King Brutus, discoursing the warres of the Britaines and Hunnes, with their Discomfiture: The Britaines victorie, with their Accidents, and the death of Albanact. No lesse pleasant than profitable. Newly set foorth, ouerseene and corrected, by W. S. London, printed by Thomas Creede, 1595.' It was entered in the books of the Stationers' Company on the 20th of July, 1594. The play concludes with some homespun lines, which, to a certain extent, fix the date:
"Lo! here the end of lawless treachery,
Of usurpation, and ambitious pride.
And they that for their private amours dare
And as a woman was the only cause
That civil discord was then stirred up,
So let us pray for that renowned maid
That eight-and-thirty years the sceptre sway'd,
And every wight that seeks her grace's smart,
Would that this sword were pierced in his heart!"
The thirty-eighth year of Queen Elizabeth's reign began on the 17th of November, 1595; and it would therefore appear that these lines were written after the entry at Stationers' Hall; and that the piece, if acted at all, was presented in the latter part of the year of which the first edition bears the date. The question then arises, whether the expression in the title-page of that edition, "Newly set foorth, ouerseene and corrected, by W. S.," implies that W. S. had corrected and published a play of an elder date; and that involves the further question whether W. S. was the original author, or one who undertook to repair a work that had fallen into his hands. Steevens says "Supposing for a moment that W. S. here stood for our great poet's name (which is extremely improbable), these words prove that Shakspeare was not the writer of this performance. If it was only set forth, overseen, and corrected, it was not composed, by him." This is not a very logical inference from the words of the title-page; nor is this an isolated case of
prominently setting forth the correction of a play. The following title-page is, we think, an exact parallel to that of 'Locrine :'-‘A Pleasant Conceited Comedie called Love's Labours Lost. As it was presented before her Highnes this last Christmas. Newly corrected and augmented by W. Shakespeare.' Here the corrector and augmentor is the undoubted author; and so the appearance of W. S. in the title-page of Locrine' as its overseer and corrector, does not prove that "it was not composed" by W. S. We have no earlier trace that W. S. was held to be William Shakspere than the publication of 'Locrine' in the folio of 1664. If the publishers of that edition of Shakspere's works were misled by the initials W. S., they are not the only persons who have thought that these initials could only belong to the greatest of writers. Shakspere has been made a political economist upon the strength of them. He was indeed a much better political economist than many of the statesmen of his time; but he did not in 1581 write A compendious or briefe examination of certayne ordinary complaints, &c., by W. S.,' which in the last century was printed with his name. The author of that very able pamphlet was William Stafford. The theory of Steevens with regard to Locrine' is that it was written by Marlowe, who died in 1593; that it was entered on the Stationers' books as Marlowe left it; that some revision was necessary; and that it was published with the initials of the revisor, William Smith, in 1595. In 1596 William Smith printed a collection of fifty sonnets, entitled, 'Chloris, or the Complaint of the passionate despised Shepheard.' In England's Helicon,' printed in 1600, there is a little poem entitled 'Corin's Dream of his fair Chloris,' bearing the initials W. S., which is no doubt by the same William Smith. We extract the first eight lines of this poem :
"What time bright Titan in the zenith sat,
And equally the fixed poles did heat :
When to my flock my daily woes I chat,
With sleep possessing my weak senses all,
In the Censura Literaria' (vol. v., p. 113) an account is given of a work printed in 1577, entitled 'The Golden Aphroditis: a pleasant discourse, penned by John Grange, gentleman,' in which a poem is also found by W. S., which is thus described:-" Eighteen
commendatory lines succeed, by W. S. This probably was Wm. Smith, the writer of other poesies. Shakspeare it could not be; both on account of the date, and because he thus useth the commonplace process of compliment employed in that age, in which mythology and personification are made to halt for it." We extract four lines from these commendatory verses:—
"Here Virtue seems to check at Vice, and Wisdom Folly taunts :
Here then was a W. S. appearing as a poet in 1577, and again in 1596. Locrine,' in 1595, is newly set forth, &c., by W. S. The same anonymous person might have written a play in the very early days of the English stage, contemporary with the first performances of Peele, Greene, Marlowe, and Kyd; he might have revised it and published it in 1595. Very little is known of this author; nothing of his personal history. A copy or two is in existence of his fifty sonnets; and, if that be fame, his little book has been sold for thirty pounds in our own day. Seventy years after the first publication of Locrine,' it is reprinted in a collection of Shakspere's works; but we have not a particle of evidence that it was traditionally ascribed to Shakspere. The principle which appears to have determined the publishers of our poet's works in 1664 to add to their "impression" a collection of "seven plays never before printed in folio" appears to have been a very simple one. They took all which they found bearing the initials W. S., or the name William Shakspere, as may be seen from the following table :—
The name of Shakspere affixed to the title of any of these plays cannot, as we have before observed in our notice of Pericles,' be received as evidence of the authorship. Sir John Oldcastle,' of