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SHAKSPEARE AND HIS TIMES.

PART II.

SHAKSPEARE IN LONDON.

CHAPTER V.

DEDICATIONS OF SHAKSPEARE'S VENUS AND ADONIS AND RAPE OF LUCRECE TO THE EARL

OF SOUTHAMPTON BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE EARL CRITIQUE ON THE POEMS OF SHAKSPEARE.

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SHAKSPEARE's dedication of his Venus and Adonis to the Earl of Southampton, in 1593; the accomplishments, the liberality, and the virtues of this amiable nobleman, and the substantial patronage which, according to tradition, he bestowed upon our poet, together claim for him, in this place, a more than cursory notice as to life and character.

Thomas Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton, and Baron of Titchfield, was born on the sixth of October, 1573. His grandfather had been created an Earl in the reign of Henry the Eighth; and his father, who married Mary, the daughter of Anthony, first Viscount of Montague, was a strenuous supporter of the rights of Mary Queen of Scots. Just previous to the completion of his eighth year, he suffered an irreparable loss by the death of his father, on the 4th of October, 1581. His mother, however, appears to have been by no means negligent of his education ; for he was early sent to Cambridge, being matri

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des st Gray's Inn, of which place, in !!! Vi Thomas Heneage, treasurer of the chamber,

he's colleagues where, on the 6th of with a shortly after Lord Southampton's sure whespeare to select him as his patron,

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duces a la via de winteled him into connection with actors and

('this intercourse Lord Southampton, at the age Hesent the *** very willing to avail himself, and his subsequent lasheid virke that, throughout life, he retained a passionate attach

In Join exhibitions. No stronger proof, indeed, can be

Live his love for the theatre, than what an anecdote related by ... banded Warto affords us, who, in a letter to Sir Robert Sydney, llowed toober 11th, 1599, tells his correspondent, that “

my

Lord 'alaihampton and Lord Rutland come not to the Court (at Nonele).

The one doth but very seldome. They pass away the tyme in London merely in going to plaies EVERY DAY.

The young nobleman thus inclined, imbued with a keen relish for dramatic poetry, who was ardent in his thirst for fame, and liberal in the encouragement of genius, it was natural for our poet to look not only with hope and expectation, but with enthusiastic regard. To Lord Southampton, therefore, though only nineteen years old, Shakspeare, in his twenty-ninth yeart, dedicated his Venus and Adonis, " the first heire of his invention.”

"*

Sydney Papers, vol. ii. p. 132. + Venus and Adonis was entered on the Stationers' Books, by Richard Field, April 18. 1593, six days before its author completed the twenty-ninth year of his

age.

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66

The language of this dedication, however, indicates some degree of apprehension as to the nature of its reception, and consequently proves that our author was not at this period assured of His Lordship's support;

for it commences thus :—“ Right Honorable, I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolisht lines to your

Lordship;” and he adds in the opening of the next clause,

onely if your Honor seeme but pleased, I account myselfe highly praised.” These timidities appear to have vanished in a very short period : for our author's dedication to the same nobleman of his Rape of Lucrece, which was entered on the Stationers' Books on May 9th, 1594, and published almost immediately afterwards, speaks a very different language, and indicates very plainly that Shakspeare had already experienced the beneficial effects of His Lordship's patronage. Gratitude and confidence, indeed, cannot express themselves in clearer terms than may be found in the diction of this address :-“ The love I dedicate to Your Lordship,” says the bard, “ is without end. 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 doe is yours, being part in all I have devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duety would shew greater ; meane time, as it is, it is bound to your Lordship."

Words more declaratory of obligation it would not be easy to select, and we shall be justified, therefore, in inferring, that Lord Southampton had conferred upon Shakspeare, in consequence of his dedication to him of Venus and Adonis, some marked proof of his kindness and protection.

Tradition has recorded, among other instances of this nobleman's pecuniary bounty, that he, at one time, gave Shakspeare a thousand pounds, in order to complete a purchase, a sum which in these days would be equal in value to more than five times its original amount. **

* “ There is one instance,” says Rowe, who first mentioned the anecdote, “so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakspeare's, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William Davenant, who was probably very well acquainted

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