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In Thorpe's dedication the word 'begetter' means inspirer.' And the word 'only' is necessary, since on the face of the Sonnets there are two inspirers-a man and a woman. But, as we have seen, these merely figure Beauty and Fame, the loves of which are the two parts of the poet's self; so that the writer himself, or Mr. Will Himself, or Mr. W. H., was the only inspirer-the expression Mr. W. H.' probably suggesting itself to Shakespeare owing to his having mentioned his name as 'Will' in Sonnet 136 and having played upon it in that and the preceding sonnet. The adoption of this conceit explains the italicizing of the word in those sonnets-it being then done both to cause his christian name apart from the other to reverberate more in the memory and to afford confirmation of this interpretation. Shakespeare being commonly addressed by his intimate friends as 'Will,' neither the conceit of the two sonnets nor that of the dedication was so far-fetched as, otherwise, both the one and the other would have been. In Shakespeare's lifetime (about 1611) we have John Davies of Hereford writing1
'Some say (good Will), which I, in sport, do sing,
And beene a King among the meaner sort.'
And Thomas Heywood (who in 1612 had recorded Shakespeare's annoyance at Jaggard's attribution to him of
1 Scourge of Folly, Epigram 159, p. 76.
the Passionate Pilgrim') wrote in 1635, in noting the familiar names of contemporary poets:
'Mellifluous Shake-speare, whose inchanting Quill
A dedicatory salutation four years subsequent to that of the Sonnets (George Wither's, to his 'Abuses Stript and Whipt: or Satyricall Essayes'), which runs:
'To him-selfe, G. W. wisheth all Happinesse,'
has been held to have been aimed at the dedication of Shakespeare's Sonnets merely because of the wish of all happiness' and the use of initials. Mr. Sidney Lee says of that suggestion, fifty recently published volumes would have supplied him with similar hints.' But the likelihood that he aimed at the dedication of Shakespeare's Sonnets-engaged as he was in stripping and whipping abuses becomes infinitely greater when it is recognised that Shakespeare himself is the sole subject of his Sonnets, and that Mr. W. H.,' whom Thorpe wished all happiness in the dedication over which Shakespeare exercised some control was Mr. Will Himself.2 In the 'Epistle Dedicatorie,' which follows his salutation, Wither professes to tell why he dedicated his book to himself, but
1 The Hierarchie of the Blessed Angells, p. 206.
2 It was suggested by Barnstorff in 1860 (Schlüssel zu Shakespeare's Sonetten) that "Mr. W. H." probably meant Mr. William Himself, the idea arising simply from his belief that the Sonnets were concerned only with Shakespeare's self. He adduced no specific evidence in support of the idea. Whatever is common to his views and our own is entitled to whatever consideration may be due to concurring opinions on account of their having been arrived at entirely independently.
that his salutation is really a satirical shot Mr. Sidney Lee does not question.1
The style in which the dedication of the Sonnets is printed is significant; for it is apparent, from the way in which the words are arranged and from each letter being a capital and each word being followed by a full point, that it was intended to imitate an inscription on a memorial tablet, and so be in harmony with the leading idea of the Sonnets, i.e., in harmony with poems which were written in view of the writer's death so that posterity might know what manner of man he was.
Before we examine Shakespeare's poem the 'Phoenix and Turtle,' which we shall show to have a connection with the Sonnets of the very highest importance, we invite the reader to test our theory against the Sonnets themselves. To many we have prefixed a short note; but we also ask the reader to bear in mind the following:
The first group shows the poet in relation to Beauty; the second, in relation to Fame. The second group calls for no remark beyond those we have prefixed to each The first group is less simple: the first seventeen
1 Wither's dedicatory epistle and his address to the reader are of much interest in view of our interpretation of Shakespeare's Sonnets. In the address, for example, he writes: "Some no doubt will mistake my plainenes, in that I have so bluntly spoken what I have observed, without any Poeticall additions or fained Allegories: I am sorry I have not pleased them therein, but should have bin more sory if I had displeased my selfe in doing otherwise; for I know if I had wrapt up my meaning in darke riddles, I should have been more applauded, and lesse understood, which I nothing desire,
I neither feare nor shame to speake the Truth; and therefore have nakedly thrust it foorth without a covering. For to what end were it, if I (as some do) had appareld my minde in darke Parables, that few or none might have understood me? I should doe better to be silent; but if that writing bee more in request, I may hereafter be obscure enough."
sonnets show that the poet felt it to be his duty to picture himself, and in the rest of the sonnets of the group he is doing so. Most of the sonnets of the group are addressed to the Spirit of Beauty, but some are addressed to the Reader or Posterity, to Himself, to his Muse, to Time; and they are addressed just as mood dictated. This is perfectly in keeping with the established practice: as Mr. Sidney Lee says, 'The typical collection of Elizabethan sonnets was a mosaic of plagiarisms, a medley of imitative studies.'1 Their writers were, for the most part, trying their hands at the conceits they found in Greek, Latin, Italian, and French authors. Thus, Thomas Watson, in his Passionate Century of Love' (1582), prefaces each sonnet with a statement of its origin, e.g.'In the first staffe of this passion the Authour imitateth Petrarch'; 'in the first six verses of this Passion, the Author hath imitated perfectly sixe verses of an Ode of Ronsard.' And we may here note that, besides giving the reference to his original, he refers in each prose preface to the purpose of the sonnet; e.g., 'the Author talketh with his owne heart, beeing nowe through the commandement and force of love separated from his bodie miraculouslie.' Sometimes the sonnet needs little or no explanation, and he says, 'The conveyance of his invention is plaine and pleasant enough of it selfe, and therefore needeth the lesse annotation before it'; or, 'There needeth no annotation at all before this Passion, it is of it selfe so plaine, and easily convayed.'
Giles Fletcher (1593) also admits the imitative nature of his collection. His title page runs: 'Licia, or Poemes
1 Life of Shakespeare, pp. 100-1.
of Love, in honour of the admirable and singular vertues of his Lady, to the imitation of the best Latin Poets, and others'; and he shows the typical sonnet publication to be an imitative medley when he speaks of English writers thinking themselves barbarous unlesse they have borrowed from Italie, Spaine, and France, their best and choicest conceites.' As to his 'Licia,' he says, 'If thou muse what my Licia is, take her to be some Diana, at the least chaste; or some Minerva; no Venus--fairer farre; it may be she is Learning's image, or some heavenlie woonder, which the precisest may not mislike: perhaps under that name I have shadowed Discipline; it may be, I meane that kinde courtesie which I found at the Patronesse of these Poems; it may bee some Colledge; it may bee my conceit, and portende nothing: whatsoever it be, if thou like it, take it.'
In Drayton's collection (1594), which he named 'Ideas Mirrour,' some sonnets are addressed (e.g., 'To the Soule,' 'To the Phoenix,' 'To Time,' 'To Fantasie,' 'To Wonder') and others not; and those addressed are dispersed among the rest. And the main purpose of the two sonnets to the reader,' which he prefixed to the collection, was to admit that it was a medley and to justify its being so. In the first of those sonnets he writes:
'My verse is the true image of my mind,