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a nobler element in Shakspeare's jealousy of Marlowe. It stands revealed in these Sonnets that he felt more than Southampton's 'filing up his line' or his being drawn to the other theatre. Shakspeare. shuddered at what he saw and heard of Marlowe behind the scenes, He felt a most fatherly fear for his youthful friend, and he cries,
'Ah! wherefore with infection should he live,
And with his presence grace impiety?'
Whose character does that hit as it does Marlowe's, according to the tenor of all contemporary testimony?
Other poets and writers besides Marlowe and Shakspeare were patronised by the Earl of Southampton. Nash dedicated his 'Life of Jack Wilton' to the Earl (1594), and he says, 'A dear lover and cherisher you are as well of lovers of poetrie as of poets themselves.' Florio, in dedicating his 'World of Words' (1598) to the same nobleman, 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.' Chapman, in a dedicatory Sonnet, calls the Earl the choice of all our country's noble spirits.' Braithwayt inscribes his 'Scholar's Medley' (1614), to him, as 'Learning's best favourite.' And Minsheu also attests the Earl's munificence to literary men. But of all who dedicated to him, or were familiar with him, Marlowe is the man described by Shakspeare. And, as he died in June, 1593, at least two groups of the Sonnets must have been written before that date, neither of which could possibly have been 'begotten' by the Earl of Pembroke.
It has been asked by supporters of the Herbert hypothesis how it is, if Southampton was the begetter of the Sonnets, that Shakspeare has not celebrated the Earl's exploits-not offered him any comforting words in his misfortunes, or congratulations on his release from prison. The answer is, Shakspeare has done all this, in his own way, in these very Sonnets. The heroic part of the Earl's nature was, no doubt, carefully treasured up in Shakspeare's dramatic works. But his character and career, and his love for the 'faire Mistress Vernon,' through all its touching history, are bound up with the Sonnets. Speaking of these he says,'Oh let my Books be then the eloquence And dumb presagers of my speaking breast.'
And so they are. How could any one suppose that our greathearted poet would ever forget all about such a friend who had
held out the hand of help to him* when he was struggling in deep waters, and found for him a firmer bit of foot-hold than he had ever before attained; or imagine that he could lose sight of his promise made in public when he proclaimed his love to be 'without end'? We might depend upon it, even if we failed to prove it, that Shakspeare's soul was not of that shallow, sonnetteering kind, and that his promises were all fulfilled.
Up to the present time it has been generally, though not universally, maintained that the first 120 Sonnets were all addressed to a male friend of Shakspeare, and that our poet outdid all his contemporaries in flattering his patron after the sonnetteering fashion f-whilst men like Hallam could scarcely swallow the difficulty of believing that Shakspeare should so prostrate himself at the feet of an Earl to fear his frown and call himself the 'slave'-the 'sad slave'—of a boy, and have wished they had never been written. But, upon a very close examination of the Sonnets, we find the assumption to be perfectly unwarranted. In the first twenty Sonnets, for example, where Shakspeare speaks to his friend directly, we are not left in any doubt as to the sex: there are sixteen distinct allusions to his being a man. Elsewhere, when the poet speaks in person, we frequently find the him' and 'his,' which (when not used in a proverbial saying) tell the sex. But passing on from those Sonnets to which the 26th is natural L'Envoy, we come upon a series, numbering at least sixteen, and through the whole of them there is no allusion to a man. The feeling expressed is more passionate, and the phrase has become more movingly tender; far closer relationship is sung, and yet the object to whom these Sonnets are written never appears in person. There is neither man' nor boy,' 'him' nor 'his.'
How is this? Surely it is not the wont of a stronger feeling and greater warmth of affection to fuse down all individuality and lose sight of sex. That is not the way of Nature's or of Shakspeare's working. With further looking-on we must believe that these said Sonnets, which we take for our third group, were dressed to a man, but to a woman. All the negative evidence shows it was not a man, and all the positive evidence indicates a
*The anecdote told by Sir W. Davenant, to the effect that Southampton, on some special occasion, gave Shakspeare 10007., will have a basis of fact which has no doubt been exaggerated; the Earl was comparatively poor.
We should not know where to find a parallel case.
We might cite an unconscious protest against this view, from Shakspeare himself (Sonnet 105):
'Let not my love be called idolatry,
Vol. 115.-No. 230.
woman. Not that Shakspeare is here wooing a woman in person. We do not suppose that he would write so many Sonnets to a and leave out the sex. May we not read them as written on the subject of Southampton's courtship? When we remember Shakspeare's own words,-being a part of all I have devoted yours,' and 'you and love are still my argument' there is nothing very startling in the supposition that Shakspeare should have devoted Sonnets to his friend's love for Elizabeth Vernon. We find the young nobleman had done his best to follow the poet's early advice. In a letter of Rowland Whyte's,' dated September 23, 1595, we learn that
My Lord Southampton doth with too much familiarity court the faire Mistress Vernon, while his friends, observing the Queen's humours towards my Lord of Essex, do what they can to bring her to favour him; but it is yet in vain.'
It may be maintained that the story of Southampton's courtship is partly told in these sixteen Sonnets. It is not Shakspeare who speaks, but Southampton to his lady. This will account for the passion and tenderness, and, at the same time, for the absence of all mention of the sex of the person addressed, which would naturally result from the poet's delicacy of feeling.† Again and again we may see how he was fettered in expression on this account. For illustrative evidence let the reader begin with the 50th Sonnet. There we find the lover on a journey, the end of which lies far from his beloved, and he is so heavy-hearted that the horse he rides is tired with his woe,' and plods dully on. In the next Sonnet he says if he were only coming back to her he should 'spur,' even though mounted on the wind. Note also the use he makes of the word 'desire' and the horse neighing. Then comes the thought (Sonnet 48), how careful he was, before leaving home, to lock up
*Sydney Papers, vol. i., pp. 348-9.
† In the latter Sonnets, where the address is direct and delicacy not demanded, there is no suppression of sex.
Malone and others have made several corrections of the Sonnets, most of which are unwarranted. We cite a few:Modern Eds., Sonnet 35, line 8. First Ed. (1609) reads, Excusing Modern Ed., Sonnet 51, line 11. First Ed. 'Shall neigh no dull Modern Ed., Sonnet 110, line 7. 'Now all is done save what shall have no end.' First Ed. Now all is done, have what shall have no end !' These, and others which we might instance, have all been made on the personal interpretation. In the 110th Sonnet, Shakspeare has been supposed to offer his friend the worn-out remnant of his abused affections. Whereas, with Southampton speaking, it signifies, Now all my wanderings are over, my "blenches" done, have my sole and enduring affection. Fortunately Mr. Lovell Reeve has just reproduced a facsimile of the first edition by means of photography, and we much prefer its few printer's blunders to those of the commentators.
Excusing THY sins more than THY sins are.' their (all men) sins more than their sins are.' Shall neigh (no dull flesh !) in his fiery race.' flesh in his fiery race.'
each little trifle for safety; but she who is his dearest jewel, his 'best of dearest' and his 'only care,' is left out:
'Thee have I not locked up in any chest.'
Sonnet 44 implies that the lover is across sea, as we know the Earl of Southampton was several times; but have no reason to think that Shakspeare ever was-still, his thoughts will fly to her in 'tender embassy of love,' and come back to him assured of her 'fair health' (Sonnet 45), and, in absence, he has her portrait
With my love's picture then my eye doth feast,
Various expressions point
And he rejoices richly in possession.
In Sonnet 57 he is her servant,' which implies in expression. And in
'That god forbid that made me first your slave.'
What god? if not Cupid, god of love, as the whole Sonnet illustrates, which would be meaningless if addressed from man to man. More feminine still, if possible, is the illustration in Sonnet 61. He cannot sleep at night for seeing her image, and he asks
· Is it thy spirit that thou send'st from thee
In all these Sonnets it is the speaker who is so far away. On the return from_abroad, we find the poet saying in a kind of general address to Love
'Sweet love, renew thy force.
Let this sad interim like the ocean.be
Which parts the shore where two contracted-new
Come daily to the banks.'
That image, we surmise, symbols the fact that Southampton and Elizabeth Vernon had been newly affianced before the Earl went on his late journey.
*At an early period, as is shown in a work quoted by Malone, which we have not seen, and entitled, Honour in his Perfection, or a Treatise in commendation of the virtues and renowned virtuous undertakings of the illustrious and heroic Princes, Henry Earl of Wexford, Henry Earl of Southampton, and Robert Earl of Essex. By G. M.' He was also a volunteer in Essex's expedition to Cadiz (1596), and appointed to the command of the Garland' in 1597. He went to offer his sword to Henry the Fourth of France, in 1598, and he was twice with Essex in Ireland.
To take one of Southampton's journeys, we learn that he left London February 8th, 1598. The 'fair Mistress Vernon 'passed her time in weeping.' It was proposed by his friends that he should marry her before he left, so bitterly did she take to heart the thought of his going. Circumstances prevented this, and his Lordship departed-after feasting Mr. Secretary, and having plays and banquets-leaving behind him a very desolate gentlewoman, that almost wept out her fairest eyes.' He came back in the November of the same year. And it is curious to connect herewith the three sonnets, 97, 98, 99, commencing
'How like a winter hath my absence been !'
and yet he tells us it was spring, summer, and autumn all the while; and he gives us this rich bit of love-poetry, which would seem strangely out of place if sent to a man:
'Nor did I wonder at the lilies white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion of the rose;
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love's breath? The purple pride
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells,
In my love's veins thou hast too grossly dyed.
The lily I condemned for thy hand,
And buds of marjoram had stolen thy hair.*
But sweet or colour it had stolen from thee.'
Would Shakspeare have written thus to a man? Luckily, we can make him answer for himself. It often happens that we are enabled to prove a sonnet not personal by the aid of those which are personal. And in Sonnet 21 he says
'So is it NOT with me as with that Muse
With sun and moon, with earth and sea's rich gems,
After which he would not be likely to compare his friend to
* Drake mentions a portrait of Elizabeth Vernon, by Jansen, the face and hands of which are said to be coloured with incomparable lustre,' so that the truth of this comparison can be tested, if the portrait be still in existence.-See 'Shakspeare's Life and Times,' vol. ii. p. 8.