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No. 470.-JANUARY, 1922.
Art. 1.-RECENT SHAKESPEAREAN RESEARCH.-II.
1. The Poems of Shakespeare. By George Wyndham. Methuen, 1898.
2 Shakespeare Bibliography. Shakespeare Press, 1901.
3. The Shakespeare Apocrypha. Clarendon Press, 1908.
By William Jaggard.
By C. F. Tucker Brooke.
4. University Studies, Nebraska, U.S.A. Also New Shakespeare Discoveries in 'Harper's Magazine,' March 1910; in the Century Magazine,' August and September 1910. By C. W. Wallace.
5. Some Supposed Shakespeare Forgeries. By Ernest Low. Bell, 1911.
6. Giovanni Florio. By Madame de Chambrun. Paris: Payot, 1921.
7. Shakespeare and the Rival Poet (Lane, 1904); and The Dark Lady of the Sonnets. By Arthur Acheson. Quaritch, 1913.
TURNING now to aesthetic questions, we find that many of the difficult problems in this field are still unsolved and seem insoluble. The Sonnets, like the body of the slain Patroclus, held of one by the heel, and of another by the head and shoulders, are like to be torn in pieces by the contending factions. Zeus, in the person of Sir Sidney Lee, has given his powerful support now to one, now to another of the opposing forces. But the W. H. of the dedication, the 'Alien Pens,' the 'Better Angel,' and the Worser Spirit' still keep their mysterious secret. No one has yet decided whether 'Begetter' means 'procurer' or 'inspirer'; or whether W. H. stands Vol. 237.-No. 470.
for William Herbert, which seems more than improbable, or for William Hall, as the word 'all' which follows might be intended to indicate, or William Hammond (as Carew Hazlitt), or William Harvey (as Mrs Stopes), or William Hughes, as indicated by the 'Hews' of Sonnet 20. If the last is a correct amplification, could he have been the son of Will. Hews, musician to Walter Devereux, father of the ill-fated Essex, who played before his master on the virginals the night before he died? 'Play,' said he, 'my song, Will Hews, and I will sing it myself.' If W. H. cannot stand for William Herbert, still less can it do duty for Henry Wriothesley, as the Southamptonites suppose. If the initials were reversed, they might with more probability refer to Henry Willobie, the author of the curious work 'Avisa, in which Shakespeare is undoubtedly alluded to. It also has been supposed by some to have a connexion with Southampton.
In this connexion valuable research work has been done by Mr Acheson in his books on the Sonnets, and on 'Willobie his Avisa' and the Davenants; as well as by the Comtesse de Chambrun in her 'Giovanni Florio,' where she brings out the intimate connexion that subsisted between Florio, Southampton, and Shakespeare, showing that much of Shakespeare's learning could have been derived from Florio.
The old and at one time favourite theory that the friend of the Sonnets was the Earl of Pembroke, and the dark lady, Mistress Fitton, Maid of Honour to the Queen, has recently been revived by Dr Creighton, who lays stress upon certain satirical verses which till lately lay hidden in the series of State Papers (Domestic).* One stanza runs :
'Parti-beard was afeared
When they ran at the herd;
And took her from the Clown.'
Here Partibeard is Sir W. Knollys, Controller of the Household, who, though married, was Mistress Fitton's
* Elizabeth, Vol. 278, No. 23.
avowed lover. She is the Doe, and the Reindeer is of course the Queen. Mary Fitton's bastard child by Pembroke was born on March 25, 1602; and the Earl, while not denying the paternity, yet 'did utterly renounce marriage.' But the identity of the player meant by the Clown is not certain. Possibly it was Kempe, who dedicated his 'Nine Days' Wonder' in somewhat familiar terms to Mistress Fitton, whom, however, he could scarcely have known very well, as he calls her Anne, which was not her name. As for the
Earl, he was born in 1580, was a great frequenter of plays, averse from marriage, a writer of amorous poems, and, according to the editors of the First Folio, 'prosecuted the Author when living with much favour.'
Southampton, the second candidate for the honour of being Shakespeare's sonnet-friend, was, however, only nine years his junior. Though he too had an intrigue with a maid of honour, Elizabeth Vernon, yet his intentions were always honourable. The Queen's opposition for a long time prevented the marriage, but he finally married Bess Vernon secretly, when her condition rendered such a step, as in Shakespeare's own case, imperative. The Earl, who had a very fine character, is known to have been Shakespeare's friend and patron from the dedications of 'Venus' and 'Lucrece,' to the latter of which Sonnet 26 bears a remarkable resemblance. He even, as a trustworthy tradition tells us, gave Shakespeare, in return no doubt for his dedications, 1000l. to complete some purchase to which he had a mind. He was a great lover of the stage, and, soon after his release from prison (supposed to be referred to in Sonnet 107) on the accession of King James, he had the revived play of 'Love's Labour's Lost' acted at his house in Holborn before the new Queen.*
The impersonal theory of the Sonnets is now the refuge of puzzled students; and Sir Sidney Lee, after holding the other two theories successively, has now become protagonist for this view. The Sonnets, it seems, are to be looked upon as almost entirely exercises in poetical mystification, Shakespeare's contribution to a sort of sonnet-game or competition played by all the
* See Sir Walter Cope to Viscount Cranbourne in 1604.
leading poets of the time, much of the inspiration being drawn from French or Italian forerunners, while the persons addressed are purely ideal. But any one who reads the Sonnets without any bias or eye on a theory must realise that a deep personal feeling and experience runs through the majority of them. Current events-if we could only identify them-are certainly mentioned: the eclipse' endured by the mortal Moon' must refer to Elizabeth, and glance at her death or the Armada or some other notable occurrence. Shakespeare seems to have had an admiration for Essex, which he showed in 'Henry V' and in the Phoenix and Turtle';* and there can be little doubt that he is meant in the touching lines:
"The painful warrior famoused for worth,
Is from the book of honour razed forth
A definite allusion there must be to Chapman or another in the Alien pens' (78), 'A worthier pen' (79), 'Both your poets' (83), 'Proud full sail of his great verse' (86), 'That affable familiar ghost' (ibid.), 'Better spirit' (80). Then there is the time-scheme that can be traced through the main sequences; and there are references to the actual conditions of the writer's life, his travelling on horseback (27, 50), his gift of a book (77, cp. 122), and his acting: 'I have gone here and there And made myself a motley to the view, Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear.' (110, 111, cp. 23). Here surely Shakespeare unlocked his own heart, no less than in the poignant verses, 'When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes' (29). Did Shakespeare invent the woman coloured ill,' 'the worser spirit,' or merely affect to feel what it is expressed in that heart-searching Sonnet on Lust-'The expense of spirit in a waste of shame'?
William Drummond of Hawthornden, about 1614, referring to the authors he had read on the subject of love, remarks the last we have are Sir William
*Henry V,' Prol. v, 32. In 'Henry VIII' the speech of Buckingham on his way to execution is closely copied from the address of Essex on the scaffold.