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ness, and I admit that many of his illustrations tell with great effect; but yet I am by no means satisfied that he has solved the riddle, which has perplexed and wearied so many learned heads. I must just briefly state that he places considerable stress on the following facts. The initials in the dedication may apply to the name of W. Herbert, while they cannot be applied to H. Wriothesly (Earl of Southampton), except by an unjustifiable transposition. The first also was eminently handsome, and therefore worthy of the praises lavished on the beauty of the object of the sonnets. Lord Southampton, was in this respect not remarkable. The difference between the ages of Herbert and Shakespeare agrees better with certain passages in the sonnets, than that between Lord Southampton and the poet. The notice of “ better spirit,” who interfered with our great poet's influence with his patron, alludes to Daniel (a highly celebrated and popular poet at that time), who it is known had dedicated to William Herbert, whereas Spenser, erroneously supposed to be alluded to, did not dedicate to Herbert. From these and other united proofs” as he calls them, the writer conceives that “ the question to whom Shakespeare's sonnets are addressed, is now decided*.”
I shall state some of my reasons for still remaining sceptical on this intricate question. The Earl of Pembroke, though certainly a patron of Shakespeare, was not so generally known as such, as Lord Southampton was, and the sonnets frequently allude to the “ public kindness shown to the poet.” Lord Southampton is said
• Mr. B. Heywood Bright, in the October number of the Gentleman's Magazine, in which the second part of J. B.'s article appears, put forth a claim to the merit of the same supposed discovery. He says that in 1819, he had convinced himself by laborious researches that W. Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke, was the person to whom Shakespeare addressed 126 of the Sonnets. A friend, whom he refers to (Mr. Joseph Hunter), acknowledges that this hypothesis was communicated to him “ many years ago.” He (Mr. Bright) was warned, he says, that by delaying the publication he was putting to hazard an honorable opportunity of securing to himself some literary reputation, but was prevented by more pressing pursuits, from preparing his notes for publication.
to have presented him with the munificent gift of a thousand pounds, a sum at that period equal to five thousand pounds in the present day. This large donation is supposed to have been bestowed on Shakespeare in the decline of his life, to enable him to purchase “ New Place" at Stratford, when he was about to retire from public life. So early as 1594, in the dedication of The Rape of Lucrece, the poet not merely dedicates his book, but observes, “ the Love I dedicate to your Lordship, is without end." He also adds, “ What I HAVE DONE IS YOURS, what I HAVE TO DO IS YOURS ; BEING PART IN ALL I HAVE DEVOTED YOURS*." Is it likely that his noble patron, who appears to have favored him with such warm friendship and generous assistance from the commencement of the poet's career to its close, should have been thus indirectly slighted or insulted, as he must have been if the sonnets, which are often expressive of such exclusive friendship, gratitude, and duty, were addressed to Herbert ?
In the account by the Oxford Historian, A. à Wood, of the life and character of the Earl of Pembroke, he is described as “ learned, and endowed to admiration with a poetical genie, as by those amorous and not inelegant Aires and Poems of his composition doth evidently appear; some of which had musical notes set to them by Henry Lawes.” And Lord Clarendon speaks of him
“ of excellent parts and a graceful speaker upon any subject, having a good proportion of learning and a ready wit to apply it and enlarge upon it.” Can it be supposed that Shakespeare would have dedicated 126 sonnets to the praise of a poet without a single allusion to his genius ? Shakespeare knew too well the nature of the commendation which a poet most dearly covets, to have been guilty of so offensive an omission. When Meres alluded to the “ sugared sonnets" William Herbert was a boy of about 15 years of age, and it is difficult indeed to suppose that Shakespeare should have addressed a series of sonnets to such a youngster, calling upon him most earnestly to marry and leave behind him an image of his beauty. The person
as a man
* Dr. Drake has inadvertently omitted to notice these expressions, which would have told strongly in support of his own speculation. I am surprised that D’Israeli, with his passion for literary research, has not paid attention to this subject.
addressed is even somewhat severely remonstrated for remaining in a state of "single blessedness."
“ Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair
To be death's conquest and make worms thine heir.” Sun. 9. “ For shame! deny that thou bearest love to any Who for thyself art so improvident."
I would draw another argument against both Dr. Drake and the Magazine writer (who signs himself J. B.-is it John Bowring?) from the inconsistent and contradictory character of the dedication. The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that Shakespeare had nothing to do with the publication of the sonnets. It is as clear as the sun at noon-day, that some of the sonnets are addressed to a male object, and others to a female. But the dedication is addressed to a single individual, who is described as the “ only begetter" of them. There has been a great deal of quibbling upon the word “begetter," some critics insisting that it means the obtainer, and others the object or inspirer. For my own part, I think it means the obtainer, for this seems the most easy and natural interpretation, and is attended with the fewest difficulties, though it partly nullifies much of the ingenious conjectural criticism of both Dr. Drake and J. B. The sonnets having been some years in circulation amongst the author's friends, we ought not to be surprised that they should at last have found their way into print without his sanction. The assertion that the person who gave or sold them to the bookseller is the only obtainer of them is a bookseller's boast, precisely in the same style as that of many of our book-advertisements in the present day.
If Shakespeare had had any thing to do with the superintendence of the publication, he would hardly have allowed himself to be styled "our ever living poet ;" or supposing that the practice of the age might have carried off the appearance of any peculiar impropriety in such a puff direct from his own bookseller, it is not to be credited for a moment that he would have left it to a mere trader to dedicate his work to either of his high and noble patrons. Shakespeare did not bring out his two first poems in
They were openly inscribed to his great patron, not giving him the sneaking and disrespectful address of Mr. W. H. but his full rank, The Right Honourable Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton and Baron of Titchfield. That the whole of the 154 sonnets cannot have been exclusively addressed to one individual will admit of no reasonable doubt; and yet if we are to believe that the dedication was addressed to Mr. W. H. as the sole object of the sonnets, the dedicator committed an egregious blunder. Is it likely that such a blunder would have been passed over by the eye of Shakespeare ? The bookseller's application of the term adventurer to himself seems an additional indication that the risk and responsibility of the speculation were exclusively his own.
It is impossible in Calcutta to obtain every work that would be useful in literary inquiries of this nature, but I have had the good fortune to fall in with several books and separate essays in Magazines bearing reference to the present subject, and have been surprised that the dedication of the sonnets should have been (as it appears to me) invariably misunderstood, and that no doubts should ever have been expressed as to the authenticity of the first edition of these poems. Every one knows that Shakespeare was careless to a fault in these matters, and though he once expressed to a friend his anger at the insolence of a bookseller who published his Passionate Pilgrim without giving any notice to the author, the latter seems to have been more annoyed at the introduction into the volume of certain poems of his contemporaries under his name, than at the liberty taken with his own productions. His plays were repeatedly published in a surreptitious and most inaccurate and disgraceful manner, but it does not appear that he ever took any steps to check a system of piracy so much calculated to injure his reputation. Any other author would have sunk under the accumulated blunders and nonsense of his editors. But though it appears pretty clear to my apprehension that W. H. in the dedication cannot be the "only" subject of the sonnets, I am not sure that some of them may not have been addressed to him ; and as he was probably one of the private friends amongst whom the whole of the sonnets circulated, his vanity might have prompted him to give copies of them to the bookseller, that he might see the ones addressed to himself in a printed collection.
The bookseller, in his eagerness and ignorance, perhaps misunderstood the begetter" or obtainer, and attributed the whole series to him, instead perhaps of some half a dozen. He accord. ingly mingled them altogether under one head, and occasioned that inextricable confusion which has since been the cause of so much painful and despairing research. If Shakespeare had had any thing to do with the edition, I think he would have dedicated the work in an open manner to his faithful friend and munificent patron (his earliest and his latest), Lord Southampton, and that he would have taken care so to divide and arrange the sonnets, and to indicate the subjects, so as to have made them intelligible to the reader. As they now stand, abstracting their poetical merit, they are nothing but a painful puzzle. It is perhaps worth while observing, that the evidently authentic editions of the Venus and Adonis and the Rape of Lucrece were both dedicated to the same patron, Lord Southampton, and both published by the same bookseller, Richard Field ; but the spurious edition of the Passionate Pilgrim was dedicated to no one, and published by Jag