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amine for themselves the question of the order of Shakspere's Sonnets (and it really is a question of great interest and rational curiosity), the results of the two opposite theories—of their exhibiting almost perfect continuity, on the one hand; and of their being a mere collection of fragments, on the other. The one theory is illustrated with much ingenuity by Mr. Brown; the other was capriciously adopted by the editor of the collection of 1640.
MR. BROWN'S DIVISION INTO Six POEMS. First Poem.-Stanzas i. to xxvi. To his
Friend, persuading him to marry. Second Poem.-Stanzas xxvii. to lv. To his
Friend, who had robbed him of his
Mistress-forgiving him. Third Poem.-Stanzas lvi. to lxxvii. To his
Friend, complaining of his Coldness,
and warning him of Life's Decay. Fourth Poem.-Stanzas lxxviii. to ci. To
his Friend, complaining that he prefers another Poet's Praises, and reproving him for faults that may injure his cha
racter. Fifth Poem.-Stanzas cii. to cxxvi. To his
Friend, excusing himself for having been sometimes silent, and disclaiming
the charge of Inconstancy. Sixth Poem.-Stanzas cxxvii. to clii. To his
Mistress, on her Infidelity.
An Invitation to Marriage. [8, 9, 10,
11, 12.] False Belief. [138.] A Temptation. [144.] Fast and Loose. [P. P. 1.] True Content. [21.] A bashful Lover. [23.] Strong Conceit. [22.] A sweet Provocation. [P. P. 11.] A constant Vow. [P. P. 3.] The Exchange. [20.] A Disconsolation. [27, 28, 29.] Cruel Deceit. [P. P. 4.] The Unconstant Lover. [P. P. 5.] The Benefit of Friendship. [30, 31, 32.] Friendly Concord. [P. P. 6.] Inhumanity. [P. P. 7.] A Congratulation. [38, 39, 40.] Loss and Gain. [41, 42.] Foolish Disdain. [P. P. 9.] Ancient Antipathy. [P. P. 10.] Beauty's Valuation. [P. P. 11.] Melancholy Thoughts. [44, 45.] Love's Loss. [P. P. 8.] Love's Relief. [33, 34, 35.] Unanimity. [36, 37.] Loth to Depart. [P. P. 12, 13.] A Masterpiece. [24.] Happiness in Content. [25.] A Dutiful Message. [26.] Go and come quickly. [50, 51.] Two Faithful Friends. [46, 47.] Careless Neglect. [48.] Stout Resolution. [49.] A Duel. [P. P. 14.] Love-sick. [P. P. 15.] Love's Labour Lost. [P. P. 16.] Wholesome Counsel. [P. P. 17.] Sat fuisse. [62.] A living Monument. [55.] Familiarity breeds Contempt. [52.] Patiens Armatus. [61.] A Valediction. [71, 72, 74.] Nil magnis Invidia. [70.] Love-sick. [80, 81.] The Picture of true Love. [116.] In Praise of his Love. [82, 83, 84, 85.] A Resignation. [86, 87.] Sympathizing Love. [P. P. 18.] A Request to his Scornful Love. [88,
89, 90, 91.)
ARRANGEMENT OF THE EDITION OF 1640.
*** In this arrangement the greater part
of the Poems of The Passionate
-18, 19, 43, 56, 75, 76, 96, 126.
A Lover's Affection, though his Love “ There is extant a small volume of mis
prove Unconstant. [92, 93, 94, 95.] cellaneous poems in which Shakspere exComplaint for his Lover's Absence. [97, presses his feelings in his own person. It is 98, 99.]
not difficult to conceive that the editor, An Invocation to his Muse. [100, 101.] George Steevens, should have been insensible Constant Affection. [104, 105, 106.] to the beauties of one portion of that volume, Amazement. [102, 103.]
the Sonnets; though there is not a part A Lover's Excuse for his long Absence of the writings of this poet where is found, [109, 110.]
in an equal compass, a greater number of A Complaint. [111, 112.]
exquisite feelings felicitously expressed. Self-flattery of her Beauty. [113, 114, But, from regard to the critic's own credit, 115.]
he would not have ventured to talk of an A Trial of Love's Constancy. [117, 118, act of parliament not being strong enough 119.]
to compel the perusal of these, or any proA good Construction of his Love's Un- duction of Shakspere, if he had not known kindness. [120.]
that the people of England were ignorant Error in Opinion. [121.]
of the treasures contained in those little Upon the Receipt of a Table-Book from pieces.” his Mistress. [122.]
That ignorance has been removed ; and A Vow. [123.]
no one has contributed more to its removal, Love's Safety. [124.]
by creating a school of poetry founded upon An Entreaty for her Acceptance. [125.] Truth and Nature, than Wordsworth himUpon her playing upon the Virginals. self. The critics of the last century have [128.]
passed away : Immoderate Lust. [129.]
“Peor and Baälim In praise of her Beauty, though Black.
Forsake their temples dim.” [127, 130, 131, 132.] Unkind Abuse. [133, 134.]
By the operation of what great sustaining Love-suit. [135, 136.]
principle is it that we have come back to His Heart wounded by her Eye. [137, the just appreciation of “the treasures con139, 140.]
tained in those little pieces”? The poet A Protestation. [141, 142.]
critic will answer :An Allusion. [143.]
“There never has been a period, and perLife and Death. [145.]
haps never will be, in which vicious poetry, A Consideration of Death. [146.] of some kind or other, has not excited more Immoderate Passion. [147.]
zealous admiration, and been far more Love's powerful Subtilty [148, 149, 150.] generally read, than good; but this advanRetaliation. [78, 79.]
tage attends the good, that the individual, Sunset. [73, 77.]
as well'as the species, survives from age to A Monument to Fame. [107, 108.] age : whereas, of the depraved, though the Perjury. [151, 152.]
species be immortal, the individual quickly Cupid's Treachery. [153, 154.]
perishes ; the object of present admiration vanishes, being supplanted by some other as easily produced, which, though no better, brings with it at least the irritation of novelty,— with adaptation, more
skilful, to the changing humours of the Of the estimation in which Shakspere's majority of those who are most at leisure to Sonnets' were held some half century ago, regard poetical works when they first solicit the greatest of our Sonnet writers, Words- their attention. Is it the result of the whole, worth, thus speaks :
that, in the opinion of the writer, the judg
ment of the people is not to be respected ? It is the perpetual mistake of the public The thought is most injurious ; and, could for the people that has led to the belief that the charge be brought against him, he would there was a period when Shakspere was repel it with indignation. The people have neglected. He was always in the heart of already been justified, and their eulogium the people. There, in that deep rich soil, pronounced by implication, when it is said have the Sonnets rested during two cenabove—that, of good poetry, the individual, and here and there in remote places as well as the species, survives. And how have the seeds put forth leaves and flowers. does it survive but through the people ? | All young imaginative minds now rejoice in what preserves it but their intellect and their hues and their fragrance. But this their wisdom ?
preference of the fresh and beautiful of *Past and future are the wings
poetical life to the pot-pourri of the last age
must be a regulated love. Those who, seeing On whose support, harmoniously conjoin'd,
the admiration which now prevails for these Moves the great spirit of human knowledge.'
-MS. outpourings of
“exquisite feelings feli
citously expressed,” talk of the 'Sonnets' The voice that issues from this spirit is that as equal, if not superior, to the greatest of vox populi which the Deity inspires. Foolish the poet's mighty dramas, compare things must he be who can mistake for this a local that admit of no comparison. Who would acclamation, or a transitory outcry-transi- speak in the same breath of the gem of tory, though it be for years; local, though Cupid and Psyche, and of the Parthenon ? from a nation! Still more lamentable is In the 'Sonnets,' exquisite as they are, the his error who can believe that there is any- poet goes not out of himself (at least in the thing of divine infallibility in the clamour form of the composition), and he walks, of that small though loud portion of the therefore, in a narrow circle of art. In the community, governed by factitious in- Venus and Ado and the 'Lucrece,' the fluence, which, under the name of the PUBLIC, circle widens. But in the Dramas, the centre passes itself, upon the unthinking, for the is the Human Soul, the circumference the PEOPLE.”
“SHAKSPERE was not so much esteemed, even Or that his hallow'd relics should be hid during his life, as we commonly suppose ;
Under a star-ypointing pyramid ? and after his retirement from the stage he was Dear son of memory, great heir of fame, all but forgotten.” So we read in an What need’st thou such dull witness of thy
name? authority too mighty to enter upon evidence. The oblivion after his retirement and death
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a lasting monument. is the true pendant to the alleged neglect during his lifet. When did the oblivion
For whilst to th’ shame of slow endeavouring
art begin? It could scarcely have existed when,
Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart in 1623, an expensive folio volume of many
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book hundred pages was published, without regard
Those Delphic lines with deep impression to the risk of such an undertaking--and it
took, was a risk, indeed, if the author had been
Then thou, our fancy of herself bereaving, neglected and was forgotten. But the editors
Dost make us marble with too much conof the volume do not ask timidly for support ceiving, of these neglected and forgotten works. And so sepulchred in such pomp doth lie, They say to the reader, “Though you be a That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.” magistrate of wit, and sit on the stage at
The author of these lines could not have Blackfriars or the Cockpit, to arraign plays known the works of the “admirable dramatic daily, know these plays have had their trial poet,” while that poet was in life; but already, and stood out all appeals.” Did sixteen years after his death he was the dear the oblivion continue when, in 1632, a second
son of memory, the great heir of fame; his edition of this large work was brought out ? bones were honoured, his relics were halThere was one man, certainly—a young and lowed, his works were a lasting monument, ardent scholar—who was not amongst the his book was priceless, his lines were oracular, oblivious. John MILTON was twenty-four Delphic. Is this oblivion ? But it may be years of age when these verses were pub- said that Milton was a young enthusiast, lished :
one who saw farther than the million; that “An EPITAPH ON THE ADMIRABLE DRAMATIC the public opinion of a writer (and we are POET, W. SHAKESPEARE.
not talking of his positive excellence, apart “What need my Shakespeare for his honour'd from opinion) must be sought for in the bones
voice of the people, or at any rate in that of The labour of an age in piled stones,
the leaders of the people.
How are we to
arrive at the knowledge of this expression ? * Life of Shakspere, in “Lardner's Cyclopædia' + See Book ix. chap. iv.
We can only know, incidentally, that an
author was a favourite, either of a king or Richard the Third, speaking in as high a of a cobbler. We know that Shakspere was strain of piety and mortification as is uttered the favourite of a king, in these times of his in any passage of this book *, and sometimes oblivion. A distinguished writer says, “The to the same sense and purpose with some Prince of Wales had learned to appreciate words in this place : 'I intended,' saith he, Shakspere, not originally from reading him, 'not only to oblige my friends, but my but from witnessing the court representations enemies.' The like saith Richard, Act 11., of his plays at Whitehall. Afterwards we
Scene 1.know that he made Shakspere his closet I do not know that Englishman alive companion, for he was reproached with doing
With whom my soul is any jot at odds, so by Milton.' The concluding words are More than the infant that is born to-night; founded upon a mistake of the passage in I thank my God for my humility.' Milton. Charles is not reproached with reading Shakspere. The great republican
Other stuff of this sort may be read throughdoes not condemn the king for having made out the whole tragedy, wherein the poet the dramatic poet the closet companion of used not much licence in departing from the his solitudes; but, speaking of the dramatic
truth of history, which delivers him a deep poet as a well-known author with whom the dissembler, not of his affections only but of
religion." It was a traditionary blunder, king was familiar, he cites out of him a passage to show that pious words might be which Warton received and transmitted to found in the mouth of a tyrant. The
his successors; that Milton reproached Charles passage not only proves the familiarity of with reading Shakspere, and thus inferred Charles with Shakspere, but evidences also
that Shakspere was no proper closet comMilton's familiarity; and, what is of more
passage has wholly the contrary importance, the familiarity even of those tendency; and he who thinks otherwise may stern and ascetic men to whom Milton was
just as well think that the phrase other peculiarly addressing his opinions. The stuff of this sort” is also used disparagingly.
A few years before that is in 1645— passage of the ‘Iconoclastes’ is as follows: “Andronicus Comnenus, the Byzantine em
Milton had offered another testimony to peror, though a most cruel tyrant, is reported Shakspere in his “ L'Allegro,” then pub
lished :by Nicetas to have been a constant reader of Saint Paul's epistles; and by continual
“ Then to the well-trod stage anon, study had so incorporated the phrase and
If Jonson's learned sock be on, style of that transcendant apostle into all
Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild.” his familiar letters, that the imitation seemed to vie with the original. Yet this availed Milton was not afraid to publish these lines, not to deceive the people of that empire, even after the suppression of the theatres by who, notwithstanding his saint's vizard, tore his own political party. That he went along him to pieces for his tyranny. From stories with them in their extreme polemical opinions of this nature, both ancient and modern, it is impossible to believe; but he would which abound, the poets also, and some nevertheless be careful not to mention, in English, have been in this point so mindful connexion with the stage, names of any of decorum as to put never more pious words doubtful eminence. He was not ashamed to in the mouth of any person than of a tyrant. say that the learning of Jonson, the nature I shall not instance an abstruse author, of Shakspere, had for him attractions, though wherein the king might be less conversant, the stage was proscribed. This contrast of but one whom we well know was the closet the distinguishing qualities of the two men companion of these his solitudes, William is held to be one amongst the many proofs Shakespeare, who introduces the person of of Shakspere's want of learning; as if it was * Mr. De Quincey's. Life of Shakespeare' in the 'Ency
* Milton here refers to the first section of the Eikon clopædia Britannica.'