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convince the most sceptical that they were the productions of one man.
Mr. William Henry Smith has not yet carried his advocacy of his theory so far as to deny that Shakespeare wrote the “ Venus and Adonis,” the “Lucrece,” and the Sonnets; and he is probably aware that he must first destroy Shakespeare's reputation as the author of these masterpieces, before he can hope to deprive him of his glowing honours, as the greatest of dramatic authors. It is impossible for the latest, and we hope the last, traducer of Shakespeare to escape from this dilemma. In the poems we find not only ideas, peculiar turns of thought, strange uses of particular words, and quaint expressions, but adumbrations of character that are more fully developed in the plays. If Mr. William Henry Smith still clings to his theory, let him at once set to work, and not only endeavour to demonstrate, but actually establish beyond risk or possibility of refutation, that Francis Bacon wrote the “ Venus and Adonis,” the “Lucrece," and the Sonnets, or the ground beneath his feet will be demolished by the aid of his own dearly-prized weapons. These delightful poems-glowing proofs of the mighty powers and evident superiority of their author-rise up in judgment against him ; and the literary Don Quixote of the nineteenth century may as well attack windmills with bulrushes, as assail our mighty Shakespeare with his idle reveries.
The theory of parallel passages never can, never did, and never will, admit of the construction Mr. William Henry Smith wishes to put upon it ; and if that worthy successor of the narrow-minded critics of the last century, none of whom ventured to question Shakespeare's right to be regarded as the author of these exquisite productions, though they sought to prejudice mankind against him, and to give the world an erroneous idea of his works,-persists in his endeavours to lead young students astray, we shall use it as a cudgel to beat the conceit out of him. Gladly indeed shall we
“Let it work,
And blow them at the moon.” Even had the plays—universally, we were going to say, but we had forgotten that important item of critical humanity, Mr. William Henry Smith, and therefore qualify it by saying, “almost universally allowed to be Shakespeare's, been published anonymously, there is no evidence upon which they could be assigned to Francis Bacon ; and, according to the parallel-passage theory, the admirers of Mr. Alexander Smith, the bard of the painful metaphors, and one of the heroes of the new and popular style of elastic verse, might claim for him the authorship of nearly every poem, above the average scale of merit, published during the last half-century.*
If a readiness to make use of the ideas and sentiments of other writers is to give the latest adapter a claim to the proprietorship, we shall speedily have confusion in the court of Parnassus. Let these canons of criticism be once admitted as valid, and good-bye to our old authors: they will speedily be devoured and poured forth in another form ; and men will only have to steal skilfully in order to establish a first-rate literary reputation. At any rate, the parallel-passage theory has got Mr. William
* See “ Athepæum,” Jan. 3, 1857. The process is very simple. Most of our readers will remember Wordsworth's line in his sonnet on Milton :
“His soul was like a star, and dwelt apart." Mr. Alexander Smith turns it out gallantly :
“ Alone he dwelt, solitary as a star.” He does not give himself much trouble about the transformation, and scarcely deigns to follow Sheridan's hint, about treating the idea “as gipsies do stolen children,- disfigure them to make 'em pass for their own.” This new method may be called poetry with variations.
Henry Smith into difficulty, and he must either abandon it altogether, or prove that to Francis Bacon the world is indebted for the “Venus and Adonis," the “ Lucrece,” and the Sonnets, to say nothing of some minor poems.
FACTS CONNECTED WITH THE PUBLICATION OF THE POEMS,
WHICH PROVE THAT THEIR AUTHOR WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE WROTE THE DRAMAS.
“Thus then Shakspeare appears, from his Venus and Adonis and
Rape of Lucrece alone, apart from all his great works, to have possessed all the conditions of the true poet."-S. T. COLERIDGE.
OUR principal object in launching this small venture upon the wide ocean of literature, is not merely to show the Baconian theory to be both a wicked libel upon the memory of Shakespeare in particular, and a grievous insult to the English nation at large, but to establish, upon the clearest and most intelligible grounds, the identity of William Shakespeare, and to prove by the testimony of his contemporaries, and the evidence of historical documents, that he, and he alone, was the author of those dramas that have long been received as his productions. Upon the internal evidence to be derived from the institution of a careful and rigid comparison between the poems and the dramas, we are not inclined to lay much stress ; yet this, as we have before shown, is altogether in favour of our view of the question. We purpose at once proceeding to proofs more palpable ; the solemn testimony of which cannot, we humbly imagine, be impugned.
Let us deal with these in the order in which they present themselves to our notice. We pass, with a brief notice, the petition of “the shareholders in the Blackfriars playhouse," dated November, 1589, pleading against the intolerant spirit which sought to deprive them of their means of subsistence; on which list of sixteen shareholders, the name of William Shakespeare stands twelfth ; we cannot now pause to determine whether Edmund Spenser, the author of the “Fairy Queen," could by any possibility have alluded to any other poet but William Shakespeare in the verses we are about to quote, although we believe the affirmative might be very easily established. The stanzas occur in a small volume entitled, “ Complaints, containing Sundrie small Poemes of the World's Vanitie,” by Edmund Spenser, published in 1591. The book contains several divisions; and in one of these, called “The Teares of the Muses,” Thalia bewails the decline of comedy, and, as we believe, the temporary retirement of Shakespeare. These lines have been frequently quoted by commentators, but they are not even now sufficiently known, perhaps because not easily accessible to the generality of readers..
- Where be the sweete delights of learnings treasure,
That wont with Comick sock to beautefie