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In spirit, however, in elegance, in the skill and texture of its modulation, and beyond all, in the dignified and highly poetical close of the third quatrain, no one of our author's sonnets excels the twenty-ninth. The ascent of the lark was a favourite subject of contemplation with the poet.
It is, time, however, to terminate these citations, which have been already susficiently numerous to enable the reader to form an estimate of the poet's merit in the difficult task of sonnet-writing. That many more might be brought forward, of equal value with those which we have selected, will be allowed perhaps when we state, that in the specimens of Mr. Ellis, the “Petrarca” of Mr. Henderson, and the “ Laura” of Mr. Lofft, eleven have been chosen, of which, we find upon reference, only one among the four just now adduced.
The last production in the minor poems of Shakspeare, is A LOVER'S COMPLAINT, in which a forlorn damsel, seduced and deserted, relates the history of her sorrows to
“A reverend man that graz’d his cattle nigh.” It is written in stanzas of seven lines; the first and third, and the second, fourth, and fifth, rhiming to each other, while the sixth and seventh form a couplet; an arrangement exactly similar to the stanza of the Rape of Lucrece. Like many of our author's smaller pieces, it is too full of imagery and allusion, but has several passages of great beauty and force. In the description which this forsaken fair one gives of the person and qualities of her lover, the following lines will be acknowledged to possess considerable excellence:
“ His browny locks did hang in crooked curls,
And every light occasion of the wind
To appertainings and to ornament.” These, and every other portion of the poem, however, are eclipsed by a subsequent part of the same picture, in which, as Mr. Steevens well remarks, the poet “has accidentally delineated his own character as a dramatist.” So applicable, indeed, did the passage appear to us, as a forcible though rapid sketch of the more prominent features of the author's own genius, and of his universal influence over the human mind, that we select it is a motto for this work :
“ On the tip of his subduing tongue
of young, of old; and sexes both enchanted.” The address which the injured mistress puts into the mouth of her seducer, when “he 'gan besiege her,” opens in a strain of such beautiful simplicity, that we cannot avoid an expression of regret, that the defective taste of the age prevented its continuance and completion in a similar style of tenderness and
" Gentle maid, Have of my suffering youth some feeling pity, And be not of my holy vows afraid.”
After relating, rather too circumstantially, the arts and hypocrisy which had been exercised for her ruin, she bursts into the following exclamation :
• O father, what a hell ot' mischief lies
In the small orb of one particular tear!” Various lines, and brief extracts, of no common merit, might be detached from the Lover's Complaint; but enough has now been said on the Miscellaneous Poetry of Shakspeare, to prove that it possesses a value far beyond what has been attributed to it in modern times. The depreciation, indeed, to which it has been lately subjected, a fate so directly opposed to that which accompanied its first reception in the world, must be ascribed, in a great measure, to the unaccountable prejudices of Mr. Steevens, who, in an Advertisement prefixed to the edition of our author's Dramas, in 1793, has made the following curious declaration:
“We have not reprinted the Sonnets, etc., of Shakspeare, because the strongest act of parliament that could be framed would fail to compel readers into their service; notwithstanding these miscellaneous poems have derived every possible advantage from the literature and judgment of their only intelligent editor, Mr. Malone, whose implements of criticism, like the ivory rake and golden spade in Prudentius, are on this occasion disgraced by the objects of their culture-had Shakspeare produced no other works than these, his name would have reached us with as lilile celebrily as time has conferred on that of Thomas Watson, an older and much more elegant sonnelleer.”
That Watson was “a much more elegant sonnetteer than Shakspeare,” is an assertion which wants no other means for its complete refutation, than a reference to the works of the elder bard. At the period when Mr. Steevens advanced this verdict, such a reference was not within the power of one in a thousand of of his readers, but all may now be referred to a very satisfactory article in the “British Bibiliographer," where Sir Egerton Brydges has transcribed seventeen of Watson's sonnets, and declares it to be his conviction, that they “want the moral cast" of Shakspeare's sonnets; "his unsophisticated materials; his pure and natural train of thought." It may be added, that a more extended comparison would render the inferiority of Watson still further apparent, and that the Bard of Avon would figure from the juxta-position like “Hyperion to a satyr."
When Mr. Steevens compliments his brother-commentator at the expense of the poet; when he tells us, that “his impliments of criticism are on this occasion disgraced by the objects of their culture,” who can avoid feeling a mingled emotion of wonder and disgust? who can, in short, forbear a smile of derision and contempt at the folly of such a declaration ?
And lastly, when he assures us, that “the strongest act of parliament that could be framed would fail to compel readers into the service of our author's Miscellaneous Poetry,” and when, at the same time, we recollect, what gives us pleasure to acknowledge, the wit, the ingenuity, and research of this able editor on almost every other occasion, it will not, we trust, be deemed a work of supererogation, that we have attempted to unfold, at length, the beauties of these calumniated poems, and to refute the sweeping censure which they have so unworthily incurred; nor will the summary inference with which we shall conclude this chapter, be viewed, we hope, as either incorrect, or unauthorised by the previous disquisition, when we state it to consist of the following terms; namely, that the Poems of Shakspeare, although they are chargeable with the faults peculiar to the age in which they sprung, yet exhibit so much originality, invention, and fidelity to nature, such a rich store of moral and philosophic thought, and often such a purity, simplicity, and grace of style, as not only deservedly placed them high in the favour of his contemporaries, but will permanently secure to them no inconsiderable share of the admiration and the gratitude of posterity.*
That Shakspeare himself entertained a confident hope of the immortality of his minor poems, the following, out of inany instances, will sutticiently prove :
Oa the Dress, and Modes of Living, the Manners, and Customs, of the Inhabitants of the Me
tropolis, during the Age of Shakspeare.
BEFORE we enter on the dramatic career of Shakspeare, a subject which we wish to preserve unbroken, and free from irrelative matter, it will be necessary, in order to prosecute our view of the costume of the Times, to give a picture in this place of the prevalent habits of the metropolis, which, with the sketch already drawn of those peculiar to the country, will form a corresponding, and we trust, an adequate whole.
In no period of our annals, perhaps, has dress formed a more curious subject of enquiry, than during the reigns of Elizabeth and James the First. The Queen, who possessed an almost unbounded share of vanity and coquetry, set an example of profusion which was followed through every rank of society, and furnished, by its universality, an inexhaustible theme for the puritanic satirists of the age.
of the mutability and eccentricity of the dresses both of men and women, during this period, Harrison has provided us with a singular and interesting account, and which, as constituting a very appropriate preface to more minute particulars, we shall here transcribe.
“ Such is our mutabililie, that to daie there is none to the Spanish guise, to-morrow the French toies are most fine and delectable, yer long no such apparell as that which is after the high Alman fashion, by and by the Turkisk maner is generallie best liked of, otherwise the Morisco gowns, the Barbarian sleeves, the mandilion worne to Collie-westen ward, and the short French breeches make such a comelie vesture, that except it were a dog in a doublet, you shall not see anie so disguised, as are my countrie men of England. And as these fashions are diverse, so likewise it is a world to see the costlinesse and the curiositie : the excesse and the vanitie : the pompe and the braverie : the change and the varietie : and finallie the ficklenesse and the follie thal is in all degrees : insomuch that nothing is more constant in England than inconslancie of allire. Oh how much cost is bestowed now adaies upon our bodies and how little upon our soules ! how many sules of apparell bath the one and how little furniture hath the other ? how long time is asked in decking up of the first, and how little space left wherin to feed the later ? how curious, bow nice also are a number of men and women, and how hardlie can the lailer please them in making it fit for their bodies? how manie limes must it be sent backe againe to him that made it? what chafing, what freiling, whal reprochsull language doth the poore workman beare awaie? and manie limes when he dooth nothing to it at all, yet when it is brought home againe it is verie fit and handsome; then must we put it on, then must the long seames of our hose be set by a plumb-line, then we pufle, then we blow, and finallie sweal lill we drop, that our clothes may stand upon us. I will saie nothing of our heads, which sometimes are polled, sometimes curled, or suffered lo grow at length like woman's lockes, manie times cut off above or under the ears round as by a woodden dish. Neither will I meddle with our varietie of beards, of which some are shaven from the chin like those of Turks, not a few cut short like to the beard of marques Ollo, some made round like a rubbing brush, other with a pique devant (o fine fashion) or now and then suffered to grow long, the barbers being growen to be so cunning in this behalfe as the tailers. And therefore if a man have a leane and streight face, a marquesse Ollons cut will make it broad and large; if il be plalter like, a long slender beard will make it seeme the narrower; if he be wesell becked, then much heare left on the cheekes will make the owner looke big like a bowdled ben, and so grim as a goose, if Cornelius of Chalmeresford saie true : manie old men doo weare no beards at all. Some lustie courtiers also and gentlemen of courage, doo weare either rings of gold, stones, or pearle in their eares, whereby they imagine the workmanship of God not to be a little amended. But herein they rather disgrace than adorne their persons, as by their nicenesse in apparell, for which I saie most nations doo not unjustlie deride us, as also for that we doo seeme lo imitate all nations round about us, wherein we be like to the Polypus or Chameleon; and thereunto bestow most cost upon our arses, and much more than upon all the rest of our bodies, as women doo likewise upon their heads and shoulders. In women also it is most to be lamented that they doo now farre exceed the lightnesse of our men (who neverthelesse are transformed from the cap even lo the verie shoo) and such staring attire as in time past was supposed meet for none but light housewives onelie, is now become an habit for chast and sober matrones. What should I saie of their doublets with pendant peeses on the brest full of jags and cuts, and sleeves of sundrie colours? their galligascons to beare out their bums and make ibeir allire to sit plum round (as they terme it) about them ? their fardingals, and diverslie coloured nelher stocks of silke, ierdseie, and such like, whereby their bodies are rather deformed than commended ? I have met with some of these trulles in London so disguised, that it bath passed my skill to discerne whether they were men or women.” *
“ So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
My love shall in my verse ever live young."
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme."
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow;
“ Confounding age
shall never cut from memory
And they shall live, and he in them still green.”
You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen),
After this philippic, we shall proceed to notice the Dress of the Ladies, commencing with that of the Queen, who is thus described by Paul Hentzner, as he saw her passing on her way to chapel, at the royal palace of Greenwich. Having mentioned the procession of barons, earls, knights, etc., he adds,
“Next came the queen, in the sixiy-fifth year of her age, as we were told, very majestic ; her face oblong, fair, bul wrinkled; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her nose a lille hooked ; her lips narrow, and her teeth black (a defect the English seem subject lo, from their too great use of sugar) ; she had in her ears two pearls, with very rich drops ; she wore false hair, and that red; upon her head she had a sinall crown;--her bosom was uncovered, as all the English ladies have it, till they marry; and she had on a necklace of exceeding one jewels ; her hands were small, her fingers long, and her stature neither tall nor low; her air was stately, her manner of speaking mild and obliging. That day she was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk, shot with silver threads; her train was very long, the end of il borne by a marchioness; instead of a chain, she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels.--While we were there, W. Slawata, a Bohemian baron, bad letters to present to her; and she, after pulling off her glove, gave him her right hand to kiss, sparkling with rings and jewels. --The ladies of tbe court followed next to her, very bandsome and well shaped, and for the most part dressed in while.”+
A few articles of the customary dress of Elizabeth, not adverted to by Hentzner, and particularly the characteristic ruls and stomacher, it may be requisite to subjoin. The former of these was profusely laced, plaited, and apparently divergent from a centre on the back of her neck; it was very broad, extending on each side of her face, with the extremities reposing on her bosom, from which rose two wings of lawn, edged with jewels, stillened with wire, and reaching to the top of her hair, which was moulded into the shape of a cushion, and richly covered with gems. The stomacher was strait and broad, and though leaving
* Holinshed, vol. i. p. 289, 290.- Harrison's Description of England. † Plentzner's Travels in Englaud. Edward Jefiery's edit. Svo. 1797. p. 31.
the bosom bare, still formed a long waist by extending downwards; it was loaded with jewels and embossed gold, and preposterously stiff and formal.
The attachment of the Queen to dress was such, that she could not bear the idea of being rivalled, much less surpassed, in any exhibition of this kind.
• It happenede,” relates Sir John Harrington, “that Ladie M. Howarde was possessede of a rich border, powderd wylh golde and pearle, and a velvet suite belonginge thereto, which moved manie to envye ; nor did it please the Queene, who thoughle it exceeded her owne.
One daye the Queene did sende privately, and got the ladies rich vesture, which she put on herself, and came forthe the chamber amonge the ladies; the kirlle and border was far too shorte for her Majestie's height; and she askede every one, How they likede her new-fancied suit ? At lengthe, she askede the owner herself, If it was not made too short and ill-becoming ?—which the poor ladie did presentlie consente to. • Why then, if it become not me, as being too shorte, I am minded it shall never become thee, as being too fine ; so it fittelh neither well. This sharp rebuke abashed the ladie, and she never adorned her herewith any more.
Neither could she endure, from whatever quarter it came, any censure, direct or indirect, or her love of personal decoration.
“One Sunday (April last),” says the same facetious knight, “my lorde of London preachede to thee Queenes Majeslie, and seemede lo touche on the vanitie of deckinge the bodie loo finely. - Her Majestie tolde the ladies, ibat If the bishope belde more discourse on suche matters, shee wolde fille him for heaven, but he shoulde walke thither withoute a staffe, and leave his mantle behind him :' perchance the bishope hathe never soughte her Highnesse wardrobe, or he woulde have chosen another texte.”+
Of this costly wardrobe it is recorded in Chamberlaine's epistolary notices, that it consisted of more than two thousand gowns, with all things answerable; and Mr. Steevens, commenting on a passage in Cymbeline, where Imogen exclaims
“ Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion;
And, for am richer than to hang by the walls,
I must be ripp’d,"— give us the following interesting illustration.
“ Clothes were not formerly, as at present, made of slight materials, were not kept in drawers, or given away as soon as lapse of lime or change of fashion had impaired their value. On the contrary, they were hung up on wooden pegs in a room appropriated to the sole purpose of receiviug them; and though such cast-off things as were composed of rich substances, were occasionally ripped for domestick uses (viz. mantles for infants, vests for children, and counterpanes for beds), articles of inferior quality were suffered to hang by the walls, till age and moths had destroyed what pride would not permit to be worn by servants or poor relations.
“When a boy, at an ancient mansion-house in Suffolk, I saw one of these repositories, which (thanks to a succession of old maids!) had been preserved, with superstitious reverence, for almost a century and a half.
“When Queen Elizabeth died, she was found to have left above three thousand dresses behind her.”
With such a model before them, it may easily be credited, that our fair countrywomen vied with each other in the luxury, variety, and splendour of their eccentricities in this way, and a few remarks on his allusions, with some invectives from less good-tempered observers, will sufficiently illustrate the subject.
Benedict, describing the woman of his choice, says, “her hair shall be of what colour it please God;" an oblique stroke at a very prevalent fashion in Shakspeare's time of colouring or dying the hair, and which, from its general adoption, not only excited the shaft of the satirist, but the reprobation of the pulpit. Nor were the ladies content wịth disfiguring their own hair, but so universally dismissed it for that of others, that it was a common practice with them, as Stubbes asserts in his Anatomie of Abuses, to allure children who had beautiful hair to private places, in order to deprive them of their envied locks.
Nugæ Antiquæ apud l'ark, vol. i. p. 361.
t Ibid. p. 170