estimation in which the science was held by our composer, who seems, on this occasion, to have partaken the enthusiasm of Shakspeare; for in a dedication " To the Worshipfull Sir Gervis Clifton, Knight," prefixed to "Madrigals to five voyces. Selected out of the best approved Italian authors. By Thomas Morley, Gentleman of his Majesties Royall Chapell, 1598,” he tells his worthy patron, “I ever held this sentence of the poet, as a canon of my creede; That whom God loveth not, they love not Musique.' For as the art of Musique is one of the most Heavenly gifts, so the very love of Musique (without art) is one of the best engrasted testimonies of Heavens love towards us.”

In 1601, Morley published in quarto, “Cantus Madrigales. The triumphes of Oriana, to 5 and 6 voices: composed by divers severall aucthors,”—a collection remarkable for its object, as it consisted of twenty-five songs, composed by twenty-four several musicians, for the express purpose of commemorating the beauty and virginity of Elizabeth, under the appellation of Oriana, and who was now in the sixty-eighth year of her age, one among innumerable proofs of the extreme vanity of this singular woman.

That a great portion of these musical miscellanies consisted of translations from the Italian, is evident from the publications of Byrd and Morley, and from the “Musica Transalpina" of Nicholas Yonge, printed in two parts, in the year 1588 and 1597, where, however, equal industry appears to have been exerted in collecting English songs; the dedication, indeed, points out very distinctly the sources whence these popular works were derived. “I endeavoured,” says Yonge, “ to get into my hands all such English songes as were praise worthie, aud amongst others I had the hap to find in the hands of some of my good friends certain Italian Madrigales translated most of them five years ago by a gentleman for his private delight." The two parts of Musica Transalpina contain eighty-one songs.

It seems probable, indeed, from Orlando Gibbons's dedication of his “First set of Madrigals and Mottets" to Sir Christopher Hatton, dated 1612, that the courtiers of that period sometimes employed themselves in writing lyrics for their domestic Lutenists; for Orlando tells his lord,—“They were most of them composed in your own house, and do therefore properly belong unto you as lord of the soil; the language they speak you provided them ; I only furnished them with tongues to utter the same.' It may be, however, that Sir Christopher was only a selector of poetry for the lyre of Gibbons.

To enumerate the multitude of music-stricken individuals, who, during this period, were occupied in procuring and collecting lyric poetry for professional purposes, would fill a volume. Among the most indefatigable, may be mentioned John Wilbye, Thomas Weelkes, John Dowland and Robert Jones ; " The Musicall Dream," 1609, and "The Muse's Gardin of Delights," 1610, by the last of these gentlemen, were held in great esteem.

We cannot close this subject, indeed, without acknowledging our obligations to this numerous class for the preservation of many most beautiful specimens of lyric poetry, which, it is highly probable, without their care and accompaniments, would either not have existed, or would have perished prematurely.

As a further elucidation of the Poetical Literature of this period, and with the view of condensing its retrospect, by an arrangement under general heads, it may prove satisfactory, if we briefly throw into classes the names of those poets who may be considered as having given ornament or extension to their art. The following divisions, it is expected, will include all that, in this place, it can now be necessary to notice.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

For specimens of these interestiag collections. I refer my reader to Censura Literaria, vol. ix. p. 1. et seq.; vol. x. p. 179, 291; and to the British Bibliographer, No. IV. p. 343 ; No. V. p. 563 ; No.'VI. p. 59, No. IX p. 427 ; No. XI. p. 652 ; No. XII. p. 48 ; and No. XV. p. 386.


Pastoral. Translators.

Epic Poelry. Historic. Lyric. Didaclic. Saliric.
Spenser. Sackville. Gascoigne. Tusser. Lodge.

Higzins. Greene. Davies Sir J. Hall.
Niccols. Raleigh. Davors. Marston.
Warner. Breton. Fletcher G. Donne.
Daniel. Lodge.

Drayton. Shakspeare

Shakspeare. Jonson.
! Marlowe. Wotton.

Fitzgeffrey. Wither,

Clapman. Harrington Fairfax. Sylvester. Golding.

Spenser. Spenser.
Sidney. Chalkhill.
Constable. Marlowe.
Watson, Drayton.
Shakspeare. Fairefax.
Daniel, Brown.


We have thus, in as short a compass as the nature of the subject would admit, given, we trust, a more accurate view of the Shakspearean era, as it existed independent of the Drama, than has hitherto been attempted.

That Shakspeare was an assiduous reader of English Poetry ; that he studied with peculiar interest and attention his immediate predecessors and contemporaries, there is abundant reason to conclude from a careful perusal of his volume of miscellaneous poetry, which is modelled on a strict adherence to the taste which prevailed at the opening of his career. The collection, indeed, may, with no impropriety, .be classed under the two divisions of Historic and Lyric poetry ; the former concluding “Venus and Adonis," and the “Rape of Lucrece," and the latter the “Sonets,” the “ Passionate Pilgrim," and the “ Lover's Complaint."

The great models of Historic poetry, during the prior portion of Shakspeare's lise, were the “ Mirrour for Magistrates” and “Warner's Albion's England;" but for the mythological story of Venus and Adonis, though deviating in several important circumstances from its prototype, we are probably indebted to Golding's Ovid ; and for the Rape of Lucrece and the structure of the stanza in which it is composed, to the reputation and the metre of the “Rosamond” of Daniel, printed in 1592. For the Sonnets, he had numerous examples in the productions of Spenser, Sidney, Watson, and Constable ; and, through the wide field of amatory lyric composition, excellence of almost every kind, in the form of ode, madrigal, and song, might be traced in the varied effusions of Gascoigne, Greene and Raleigh, Breton and Lodge.

How far our great bard exceeded, or fell beneath, the models which he possessed; in what degree he was independent of their influence, and to what portion of estimation his miscellaneous poetry is justly entitled, will be the subjects

he next chapter, in wh we shall venture to assign to these efforts of his early days a higher rank in the scale of excellence than it has hitherto been their fate to obtain.


Dedications of Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis, and Rape of Lucrece, to the Earl or Southampton

-Biographical Sketch of the Earl-Critique on the Poems of Shakspeare.

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 matriculated there when only twelve years old, on the 11th of December, 1585. He was admitted of St. John's College, where, on the 6th of June, 1589, he took his degree of Master of Arts, and, after a residence of nearly five years in the University, he finally left it for Town, to complete his course of studies at Gray's Inn, of which place, in June, 1590, he had entered himself a member.

The circumstances which, so shortly after Lord Southampton's arrival in London, induced Shakspeare to select him as his patron, may, with an assurance almost amounting to certainty, be ascribed to the following event. Not long after the death of her husband, Lady Southampton married Sir Thomas Heneage, treasurer of the chamber, an office which necessarily led him into connection with actors and dramatic writers. Of this intercourse Lord Southampton, at the age of seventeen, was very willing to avail himself, and his subsequent history evinces, that, throughout life, he retained a passionate attachment to dramatic exhibitions. No stronger proof, indeed, can be given of his love for the theatre, than what an anecdote related by Rowland Whyte affords us, who, in a letter to Sir Robert Sydney, dated October 11th, 1599, tells his correspondent, that “my Lord Southampton and Lord Rutland come not to the Court at Nonesuch). The one doth but very seldome. They pass away the tyme in London merely in going to plaies every day."

To a young nobleman thus inclined, imbued with a kéen 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 year, * dedicated his Venus and Adonis, “the first heire of his invention.”

The language of his 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 oflend 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,

[ocr errors]

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.

in consequence of his dedication to him of Venus and Adonis, some marked proof of bis 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. This may be, and probably is, an exaggeration; but that it has been founded on the well-known liberality of Lord Southampton to Shakspeare; on a certain knowledge that donations had passed from the peer to the poet, there can be little doubt. It had become the custom of the age to reward dedication by pecuniary bounty, and that Lord Southampton was diffusively and peculiarly generous in this mode of remuneration, we have the express testimony of Florio, who, dedicating his “World of Words” to this nobleman in 1598, says: -“In truth, I acknowledge an entire debt, not only of my best knowledge, but of all; yea, of more than I know, or can to your bounteous lordship, in whose pay and patronage I have lived some years; to whom I owe and vowe the years I have to live. But, as to me, and many more, the glorious and gracious sunshine of your honour hath infused light and life.” Here, if we except the direct confession relative to “pay," the language is similar to, and not more emphatically expressive of gratitude than was Shakspeare's; and that, under the phrase "many more,” Florio meant to include our poet, we may, without scruple, infer. To an actor, to a rising dramatic writer, to one who had placed the first fruits of his genius under his protection, and who was still contending with the difficulties incident to his situation, the taste, the generosity, and the feeling of Lord Southampton would naturally be attracted; and the donation which, in all probability, followed the dedication of Venus and Adonis, we have reason, from the voice of tradition, to conclude, was succeeded by many, and still more important, proofs of His Lordship's favour.

In 1597, when Lord Essex was appointed General of the forces destined to act against the Azores, Southampton, at the age of twenty-four, gallantly came forward as a volunteer, on board the Garland, one of Her Majesty's best ships,-an offer which was soon followed by a commission from Essex to command her. AD opportunity speedily occurred for the display of his courage; in an engagement with the Spanish fleet, he pursued and sunk one of the enemy's largest men of war, and was wounded in the arm during the conflict. Sir William Monson, one of the Admirals of the expedition, tells us, that the Earl lost time in this chase, which might have been better employed; but his friend Essex appears to have considered his conduct in a different light, and conferred upon him, during his voyage, the honour of knighthood.

On his return to England, in October, 1597, he had the misfortune to find that the Queen had embraced the opinion of Monson, rather than that of Essex, and frowned with displeasure on the officer who had presumed to pursue and sink a Spanish vessel, without orders from his commander; a censure which was intended also to reach the General, with whom she was justly offended for having assumed the direction of a service to which his judgment and his talents were inadequate.

His introduction to parlimentary business began on the 24th of October, 1597, and terminated, with the session, on the 8th of February, 1598; and two days afterwards, he lest London to commence bis tour.

In the course of November, 1598, there is reason to suppose that this enterprising nobleman returned to London; soon after which event, his union with Elizabeth Vernon took place. His bride was the daughter of John Vernon of Hodnet, in the county of Salop, and she appears to have possessed a large share of personal charms. A portrait of her was drawn by Cornelius Jansen, which is said to have “the face and hands coloured with incomparable lustre.” The unjustifiable resentment of the Queen, however, rendered this connection, for a time, a source of much misery to both parties. Her capricious tyranny was such, as to induce her to feel oflended, if any of her courtiers had the audacity to love or marry


without her knowledge or permission; and the result of what she termed His Lordship's clandestine marriage, was the instant dismissal of himself and his lady to a prison. How long their confinement was protracted, cannot now be accurately ascertained; that it was long in the opinion of the Earl of Essex, appears from an address of his to the Lords of Council, in which he puts the following interrogation :-"Was it treason in my Lord of Southampton to marry my poor kinswoman, that neither long imprisonment, nor any punishment, besides, that hath been usual, in like cases, can satisfy, or appease ?" But we do know that it could not have existed beyond March, 1599 ; for on the 27th of that month, Lord Southampton accompanied his friend Essex to Ireland, where, immediately on his arrival,' he was appointed by the Earl, now Lord Deputy of that country, his general of the horse.

This military promotion of Southampton is one among numerous proofs of the imprudence of Essex, for it was not only without the Queen's knowledge, but, as Camden has informed us, “clean contrary to his instructions.” What was naturally to be expected, therefore, soon occurred; Lord Southampton was, by the Queen's orders, deprived of his commission, in the August following, and on the 20th of September, 1599, he revisited London, where, apprehensive of the displeasure of Her Majesty, he absented himself from court, and endeavoured to soothe his inquietude by the attractions of the theatre, to which his ardent admiration of the genius of Shakspeare now daily induced him to recur.

The resentment of the Queen, however, though not altogether appeased, soon began to subside; and in December, 1599, when Lord Mountjoy was commissioned to supersede Essex in the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland, Lord Southampton was one of the officers selected by Her Majesty to attend him. Farther than this she refused to condescend; for, though His Lordhip solicited for some weeks the honour of kissing her hand, and was supported in this request by the influence of Cecil, he solicited in vain, and was at length compelled to rest satisfied with the expression of her wishes for the safety of his journey.

One unpleasant consequence of his former transient compaign in Ireland, had been a quarrel with the Lord Grey, who acting under him as a colonel of horse, had, from the impetuosity of youthful valour, attacked the rebel force without orders; a contempt of subordination which had been punished by his superior with a night's imprisonment. The fiery spirit of Grey could not brook even this requisite attention to discipline, and he sent Southampton a challenge, which the latter, on his departure for Ireland, in April, 1600, accepted, by declaring that he would meet Lord Grey in any part of that country. The Queen, however,

, , for the present arrested the combat; but the animosity was imbittered by delay, and Lord Southampton felt it necessary to his character to break off his military engagements, which had conferred upon him the reputation of great bravery and professional skill, and had received the marked approval of the Lord Deputy, to satiate the resentment of Grey, who had again called him to a meeting, and fixed its scene in the Low Countries.

of this interview we know nothing more than that it proved so completely abortive, that, shortly afterwards, Lord Grey attacked Southampton as he rodo through the streets of London, an outrage which affords but a melancholy trait of the manners of the age, though punished on the spot by the immediate committal of the perpetrator to prison.

It had been happy, however, for the fame and repose of Southampton, had this been the only unfortunate contest in which he engaged; but he was recalled by Essex from the Low Countries, in order to assist him in his insurrectionary movements against the person and government of his sovereign. Blinded by the attachments of friendship, which he cultivated with enthusiastic warmth, and indignant at the treatment which he had lately received from the Queen, he too readily listened to the treasonable suggestions of Essex, and became one of the conspirators who assembled at the house of this nobleman on the 8th of February,

« VorigeDoorgaan »