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he opens the dedication to His Lordship with the assurance that his love for him is without end. In correspondence with this declaration, the sonnet commences with this remarkable espression,- Lord of my love ; while the residue tells us, in exact conformity with the prose address, his high sense of His Lordship's merit and his own unworthiness.
That no doubt may remain of the meaning and direction of this peculiar phraseology, we shall bring forward a few lines from the 110th sonnet, which, uniting the language of both the passages just quoted, most incontrovertibly designates the sex, and, at the same time, we think, the individual to whom they are addressed :
si My best of love,
Before we proceed any further, however, it may be necessary to obviate an objection to our hypothesis which must immediately suggest itself. It will be said, that the first seventeen sonnets are written for the sole purpose of persuading their object to marry, and how could this exhortation be applicable to Lord Southampton, who, from the year 1594 to the year 1599 was the devoted admirer of the faire Mrs. Varnon ?
To remove this apparent incongruity, we have only to recollect, that His Lordship's attachment to his mistress met with the most decided and relentless opposition from the Queen ; and there is every reason to infer, from the voluntary absences of the Earl in the
years 1597 and 1598, and the extreme distress of his mistress on these occasions, that the connection had been twice given up, on his part, in deference to the will of his capricious sovereign.
Shakspeare, when his friend at the age of twenty-one was first smitten with the charms of Elizabeth Vernon, was high in His Lordship’s confidence and favour, as the dedication of his Lucrece, at this period, fully evinces. We also know, that the Earl was very indignant
at the interference of the Queen ; that he very reluctantly submitted, for some years, to her cruel restrictions in this affair; and if, in conformity with his constitutional irritability of temper, and the natural impulse of passion on such a subject, we merely admit, his having declared what every lover would be tempted to utter on the occasion, that if he could not marry the object of his choice, he would die single, a complete key will be given to what has hitherto proved inexplicable.
It immediately, indeed, and most satisfactorily accounts for four circumstances, not to be explained on any other plan. It affords, in the first place, an easy and natural clue to the poet's expostulatory language, who, being ardently attached to his patron, wished, of course, to see him happy either in the possession of his first choice or in the arms of a second, and, therefore, reprobates, in strong terms, such a premature vow of celibacy: it gives in the second place, an adequate solution of the question, why so few as only seventeen sonnets, and these the earliest in the collection, are employed to enforce the argument? for when His Lordship, on his return to London from the continent in 1598, embraced the resolution of marrying his mistress, notwithstanding the continued opposition of the Queen, all ground for further expostulation was instantly withdrawn. These seventeen sonnets, therefore, were written between the years 1594 and 1598, and were consequently among those noticed by Meres in 1598, as in private circulation : in the third place, it assigns a sufficient motive for withholding from public view, until after the death of the Queen, a collection of which part was written to counteract her known wishes, by exciting the Earl to form an early and independent choice : and in the fourth place it furnishes a cogent reason why Jaggard, in his surreptitious edition of the Passionate Pilgrim in 1599, did not dare to publish any of these sonnets, at a time when Southampton and his lady were imprisoned by the enraged Elizabeth, as a punishment for their clandestine union.
Having thus, satisfactorily as we think, not only removed the objection but strikingly corroborated the argument through the medium of our defence, we shall select a few passages from these initiatory
the Alexander's were wanting to prove that Shakspeare's object Warto wowote nieud, a multitude might be quoted from the remaining se bodo da wito ww shall content ourselves, however, with adding a few to s'hi Angelotswanly given from the first seventeen :
" () carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thïne antique pen;
" His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green.”
The transcription of one entire sonnet will spare
further quotation, as it must prove, against all the efforts of sophistry, the sex for which wo contend:..
“ AH! wherefore with infection should he live
And with his presence grace impiety,
That sin by him advantage should atchieve,
0, him she stores, to show what wealth she had,
The subsequent sonnets, likewise, as far as the hundred and twentyseventh, which appear to have been written at various periods anterior to 1609, not only bear the strongest additional testimony to the mascularity of the person addressed, but in several instances clearly evince the nature of the affection borne to him, which without any doubt consisted solely of ardent friendship and intellectual adoration. Two entire sonnets, indeed, are dedicated to the expression of these sentiments, in the first of which he tells his noble patron, that he had absorbed in his own person all the friendship which he (Shakspeare) had ever borne to the living or the dead, and he finely terms this attachment “religious love."
religious love.” In thy bosom he exclaims
there reigns love and all love's loving parts,
* If we consult the context of this sonnet, and recollect that Shakspeare addresses in his own person, it will be sufficiently evident that my lovers here can only mean my friends.
and in the second he says, addressing the same friend, that when Death arrests him, his verse
6 for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
That Shakspeare looked up to his friend not only with admiration and gratitude, but with reverence and homage, and, consequently, that neither William Harte nor William Hughes, nor any person of his own rank in society could be the subject of his verse, must be evident from the passages already adduced, and will be still more so, when we weigh the import of the following extracts.
We are told, in the seventy-eighth sonnet, what, indeed, we might have supposed from the Earl's well-known munificence to literary men, that he was the theme of every muse; and it is added, that his patronage gave dignity to learning and majesty to grace:
“ So oft have I invoked thee for my muse,
And found such fair assistance in my verse,
got my use,
In his ninety-first sonnet the poet informs us, that he values the affection of his friend more than riches, birth, or splendour, finishing his eulogium by asserting that he was not his peculiar boast, but the pride of all men :
" Thy love is better than high birth to me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garment's cost,