VOL. CVI. JANUARY, 1918 NO. 634
To Whom Dedicated?
By B. Frank Carpenter, Ph.D.
Copyright 1918. THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF
IN THE STATE OF
Says Dr. Appleton Morgan, President of the New York Shakespeare Society, in THE CATHOLIC WORLD of April, 1916, in a sort of official contribution to the harmony of that wonderful Shakespeare Semester of 1916: “Shakespeare's other noble friend was William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and to him Shakespeare dedicates a sheaf of one hundred and fifty-four delicious Sonnets. It is interesting to wonder why Lord Pembroke asked that Shakespeare make this dedication, not in his titular, but in his family, name: ‘William Herbert’ and then only using the initials ‘Mr. W. H.’ ” But, that this “Mr. W. H.” was really Lord Pembroke, Ben Jonson (always a bit jealous of Shakespeare whose plays crowded the theatre while Jonson's would not pay for a sea-coal fire) revealed. For Ben Jonson, in dedicating his own Epigrams to “William Herbert, Lord Chamberlain, etc.,” in the year 1616, plainly says: “I dare not change your Lordship's Title, since there is nothing in these Epigrams in expressing which it is necessary to employ a cipher” (p. 12).
For fully forty years Dr. Morgan had elected to occupy an attitude of the most complete negation anent these two reigning theories as to this dedicateeship. Dr. Morgan denied that they were ever dedicated to any noble lord whomsoever. It is possible that merely this opaque Jonsonese dedication (for such it will appear when we quote it in full) has induced Dr. Morgan to desert his former position, and accept one cryptic Elizabethan dedication upon the strength of another cryptic Elizabethan dedication which, upon examination, is quite as occult and collapsible? Forty years ago, in a volume, The Shakespearean Myth, Dr. Morgan asserted: first, Shakespeare never dedicated any Sonnets to anybody; second, no Sonnets were dedicated to Southampton; third, no Sonnets were dedicated to Pembroke; fourth, Thomas Thorpe dedicated the Sonnets in question to some friend of his own, a “Mr. W. H.,” a gentleman, the pleasure of whose acquaintance, however, he permitted nobody to share with himself.
Has Dr. Morgan discovered a new proposition (we had almost said, in view of the hectic, not to call it pugnacious, state of the controversy, a new weapon) for believing that Shakespeare dedicated these Sonnets to Lord Southampton? Or has he only done that next best thing to solving a riddle, namely, devised a new element to make that riddle more cryptic still?
Prior to this proposition in THE CATHOLIC WORLD, Dr. Morgan had been credited with a theory of his own upon The Sonnets, their dedication and authorship, which at least had the advantage of being sui generis, his own and nobody else's! That theory, as far as the present writer is able to extract it from three representative works, ran about as follows: First, as to Pembroke. There is nothing anywhere historical, traditional, internal or external to connect the name of Shakespeare with the name of Pembroke save the dedication in 1623 of the First Folio by the elusive Heminge and Condell, who say that these two noble lords were selected as dedicatees for these plays because they had been pleased to show “their author, while living, some favor.”
Second: As to
For if the Sonnets were to be dedicated to that noble lord in addition to the
two poems, why depart from the form of dedication already adopted to his
lordship by name and in epistolary form? This form had been arrived at gradually. The dedication of the Venus and Adonis was
diffident, apologetic, a bit fulsome, after the manner of Tudor dedications,
signed “Your Honour's in all duty.” The dedication of the Lucrece
brings an advance in camaraderie, “The
love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end.” Not unnaturally, then, one might look in a
third dedicatory letter for a still further advance toward “a marriage of true
minds.” Has there been a quarrel between
the nobleman and the poet? If so, why
any dedication at all? Or why, if a
quarrel, rub in the contumely by addressing His Grace, of many titles, as plain
“Mister” (or, perhaps, “Master”) “W. H?” Or, worse even than this, take not the trouble
to dedicate his Sonnets at all, but
carelessly ask his publisher to do the dedicating and, to italicize his
insouciance, transpose the initials of Henry Wriothlesey
“H. W.” to “W. H.,” which meant in such a connection just precisely nobody at
all? Was Shakespeare ashamed or afraid
to dedicate to His Grace of Southampton still one more poetical effort? Had
If Damon and Pythias were friends, cries Dr. Morgan, let us know it from Damon as well as from Pythias! Let it appear from the family records of Damon as well as from the family records of Pythias. Granted that the records, so far as we have any, of the Shakespeare family (at least its traditions) assert that Shakespeare and Southampton, the poet and the commoner, were habitually arm-in-arm, always the closest of intimates; are there any records or traditions of the Southampton family that assert as much?
As to the Sonnets themselves, admire them as we must today, the fact is they attracted no particular contemporary attention. Meres reports them as in private circulation among Shakespeare's private friends in 1598. But, except by Thorpe, who prints them eleven years after in a “broadside,” or quarto, along with a poem called The Lovers Complaint, they are not rescued from their manuscript condition, or mentioned anywhere in any connection whatever. The four Shakespeare Folios failed to collect and include them. The “editors” par excellence – Rowe, Warburton, Pope, Theobald, Hanmer and Capel – ignored them. Even the variorum editors, Boswell and Johnson, failed to honor them with their criticism, and George Stevens gave it as his opinion that nothing less than an act of Parliament would induce anybody to read them. But it happened that, in the year of Our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty-eight, a gentleman of leisure, such as Dr. Appleton Morgan himself (perhaps a bit ennuyé for something to pass the time away) happened to conceive the idea of actually reading them.
So far as appears, from the “private friends” of 1598 down to himself in the year 1838, a trifle of two hundred and forty years,
He was the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea
This gentleman found that these Sonnets were actually six poems of different lengths, each poem having a consistent theme and argument. And this gentleman, Charles Armitage Brown by name, who makes this marvelous discovery by the simple process of reading these Sonnets, was able to demonstrate, in the familiar way of demonstrators (“sign-post critics” they have been called, who antiphonate a line of comment with a snatch of the text and then a snatch of the text with a line of comment) that these six poems were an appeal to some golden youth, enjoying too keenly his bachelordom, to settle down, marry and beget offspring, not upon any ethical considerations, but solely because:
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by Time decrease
His tender heir might bear his memory!
Another of these six poems is a lament over a sweetheart's inconstancy; another mourns a rival-in-love's successful rivalry; another voices the remorse brought on by satiety, etc., etc.; all (omitting the first – the suggestion of marriage) conventional in theme; however, as we recognize today, passing the highest flights of poetry elsewhere touched! But the difficulty, not to call it the impossibility, of bringing either Southampton or Pembroke into their neighborhood is immeasurably increased by Mr. Brown's discoveries. Add to the absurdity of it all that Pembroke was barely eighteen years of age (he was known as Lord Herbert, until his majority in January, 1601, when he became third Earl of Pembroke) and so presumably subject to tutors and governors, and Southampton was but seven years his elder – neither of them at a point in life when marriages for them must be matters of solitude or of arrangement by third parties!
Why should William Shakespeare, a commoner – or even, as he was later, a gentleman entitled to coat-armor – beg, or even dare to suggest to, either Pembroke or Southampton that they should marry? How would either of those noble lords have tolerated, passed around among William Shakespeare's private friends for all comers to gossip about, so extraordinary a suggestion touching the most intimate and immune concerns of one or the other of them?
It seems to us that Dr. Morgan was right forty years ago in his Shakespearean Myth, when he concluded that Thomas Thorpe dedicated this sheaf of heretofore undedicated Sonnets to a crony of his own in 1609. Dr. Morgan quotes a passage from George Wither's Scholler's Burgatorie (1625), which we think ourselves might be more widely remembered when we essay to solve, point-blank, all these irksome questions as to Elizabethan and Jacobean authorships! Speaking of the publisher (printer) of his date, Mr. Wither says: “If he gets any written note, he will publish it and it shall be contrived and named also according to his own pleasure. Nay, he oftentimes gives books names as will, to his thinking, make them saleable, when there is nothing in the whole volume suitable to such a title.”
If the publisher could give a book a title and an author, why could he not also give that book a dedicatee? Why should not Mr. Thomas Thorpe feel himself moved by the fugitive condition of Shakespeare's vagrant Sonnets to rescue them from their manuscript state, offer them the custody of print and supply them with a sponsor-dedicatory? He need not hesitate as to their vagrant state. The printing of a random two of them years before, with a careless collection of Songs and Sonnets (dubbed – for some unascertained reason – The Passionate Pilgrim), appeared to indicate that Shakespeare placed no value upon them. Surely, argues Dr. Morgan, Tennyson would not have permitted two stanzas of In Memoriam to be printed in Maud or in The Idyls of the King!
But Mr. Publisher Thorpe does not stop here. He gets into his possession not only these one hundred and fifty-four Sonnets rumored to be in circulation among Shakespeare's private friends, but, as already noted, a poem, The Lover's Complaint, from some utterly conjectural source quite as anonymous and quite as undedicated as are the Sonnets themselves. And so both being publici juris – like umbrellas – our tender-hearted Thomas Thorpe gives these little Japhets in search of a father, the father and the dedicatee they seem in need of!
But that Shakespeare himself had neither hand nor voice in this Thomas Thorpe printing of 1609 (its imprint ran: “Printed by G. Eld for T. T. and are to be sold by John Wright, dwelling at Christ's Church Gate”), is sufficiently obvious from the one hundred and twenty-sixth Sonnet, the last two verses of which are wanting, their places being supplied by brackets, thus:
It not being supposable within the bounds of reason that an author would have forgotten or been unable to supply two verses of his own composition; or, if he had forgotten them irrevocably, that he would call attention to his lapse by printer's signs! Thorpe evidently had obtained these vagrant Sonnets and this Lover's Complaint, perhaps by the aid of the Mr. Hall whose acquaintance we are soon to make. But that, judging from Wither's revelations as to the tendency and the license of the publisher of that date, Thorpe could have resisted such a choice morsel as putting the name of Southampton or of Pembroke to his Book of Songs and Sonnets, it is hard to imagine! What more readily would have made it marketable? What a lustre it would have shed over the humble printer (so humble that he dares only to use in his imprint his initials) had he been authorized to parade on his title-page one or the other of these lordly names.
Contemplating all these considerations, Dr. Morgan, in his Shakespearean Myth, decides that the Sonnets are dedicated by Thomas Thorpe to one, not of Shakespeare's, but of his own “private friends.” Has Dr. Morgan's attention been called to the fact that, twenty years later, a corroboration of his judgment was discovered?
In the year 1898, twenty-one years after Dr. Morgan broached his Shakespearean Myth, it was discovered that in the year 1616 this same Thomas Thorpe actually did become possessed of literary material which there was some pretext for dedicating to the Earl of Pembroke. It appeared that one Joseph Healy had previously made and dedicated to Pembroke certain translations from the Latin, and that at his (Healy's) death he left unprinted a translation of Epictetus. This translation Thorpe possesses himself of, and straightway, evidently, without asking permission at all, he prints it in the year 1616, with as fulsome and abjectly cringing a dedication as one could well make:
To the Right Honourable William, Earle of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlaine to His Majestie, One of, His Majestie's Most Honourable Privy Council and Knight of the Most Noble Order of Garter, etc.
Right Honourable: It may worthilie seem strange unto your Lordship out of what frenzy one of my meanness hath presumed to commit the Sacrilege in the straightness of your Lordship's leisure to present a piece for matter and model so unworthy and in this scribbling age when great persons are so pestered daily with Dedications. All I can allege in extenuation of so many incongruities is the bequest of a deceased Man who (in his lifetime) having offered some translations of his unto your Lordship, ever wished if these ensuing were ever published they might only be addressed unto Your Lordship as the last tribute of his dutiful affection (to use his own tearmes) the true and learned upholder of learned endeavours. This therefore being left with me as a Legacie unto your Lordship (pardon my presumption Great Lord, from so mean a man to so great a Person) I could not without some impiety present to anie other: such a sad privilege have the bequests of the Dead, and so obligatory they are more than requests of the living. In the hope of this Honourable acceptance I will ever rest
Your Lordship's Humble, devoted Servant
Such is the dedication T. T. does achieve when presuming to dedicate something to his “Great Lord” Pembroke. Can one infer that, seven years before, he would have dared to address this same “Great Lord” as “Mr. W. H.” Compare this with the dedication of the Sonnets: “To the Onlie Begetter of These Ensuing Sonnets – Mr. W. H. – All Happiness and That Eternitie, Promised by Our Ever Living Poet, Wisheth the Well-Wishing Adventurer in Setting forth. T. T.” and it is sufficiently apparent that the two compositions are not addressed by an identical person to one and the same dedicatee.
What then, in spite of this confirmation of his own conjecture, could have so powerfully moved Dr. Morgan's recantation? According to the paragraph in THE CATHOLIC WORLD used as the rubric to this paper, he finds himself moved by another dedication – (also by the way, dating from the year 1616). Here is that dedication verb. lit. et punet.:
To The Great Example of Honour and Virtue, the Most Noble
William, Earl of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlain, etc.
My Lord – While you cannot change your merit, I dare not change your Title. It was that made it and not I, under which name I offer to your Lordship the ripest of my studies, my Epigrams, which though they may carry danger in the sound do not therefore seek your shelter, for when I made them I had nothing in my conscience to expressing of which I did need a cipher. But if I be fallen into those times, wherein, for the likeness of vice, and facts, everyone thinks another's ill deeds objected to him, and that in their ignorant and guilty mouths the common voice is for their security. BEWARE THE POET! confessing therein so much love to their diseased as they would rather make a party for them than be either rid or told of them. I much expect at your Lordship's hand the protection of truth and liberty while you are constant to your own goodness. In thanks whereof I return you the honour of leading forth so many good and great names (as my verses mention on the better part) to their remembrance with posterity. Amongst these if I have praised unfortunately any one that doth not deserve – or if any answer not in all numbers the pictures I have made of them – I hope it will be forgiven me that they are no ill pieces, though they be not like the persons. But I foresee a nearer fate to any book than this, that the vices will be owned before the virtues (though there I have avoided all particulars as I have done names) and some will be so ready to discredit me as they will have the impudence to belie themselves, for if I meant them not, it is so. Nor can I hope otherwise. For why should they remit anything of their riot, their pride, their self love, and other inherent graces, to consider truth or virtue, but with the trade of the world lend their long ears against men they love not, and hold their dear mountebank or jester in far better condition than all the study or studiers of humanity? For such I would rather know them by their vizards still than they should publish their faces at their peril in any theatre where Cato if he lived might enter without scandal.
Your Lordship's Most faithful Honourer
Is it within the bounds of possibility that
Dr. Morgan has been converted from agnosticism to gnosticism
by such incongruous, maudlin and incoherent rubbish as this? When my Lord Pembroke sat himself down to
peruse this Bunsbyan performance (if he ever did),
was he able to make head or tail of it, we wonder? Had honest Ben habitually written in this
muddy idiom it would not have been so wondrous strange that his plays would not
pay for a sea coal fire. “Antoni gladios potuit contemnere si sic omnia dicere”
remarked Juvenal over that unfortunate alliterative of
According to Dr. Morgan, any publication in those times was properly styled a “venture,” and the person launching a venture is naturally an adventurer. In setting forth, then, the adventurer, “T. T.” wishes some friend of his (“W. H.”) all happiness and a long life. He is issuing a book of poetry, and so struggles to express himself poetically. He describes the long life bespoken for his friend as “that eternity promised by our ever-living poet” (obviously – since neither T. T. nor Mr. W. H. is a poet – the sonneteer himself). For the remainder: “That eternitie promised, etc.,” we may perhaps find a pretext, in the opening lines of the first Sonnet, in the fantasy “that thereby beauty's rose might never die” – there is no other “eternitie” nor immortality, promised anywhere else either in the Sonnets or in The Lover's Complaint! But what is a “begetter?” Dr. Morgan asks and answers his own question: clearly one who gets or procures. “I have some cousin-Germans at court,” says Dekkar in Satriomastix, “shall beget you the reversion of the master of the king's revels.” The printer of these Sonnets, then, feels himself at liberty to dedicate them to whomsoever he sees fit, and he sees fit to dedicate them to the obliging party who has possessed himself of one of these manuscript copies that Meres tells about, and has brought it to Thorpe to make a book of Songs and Sonnets out of – to one who has, in Dekkar's phrase, made himself, as to Thorpe, an “only begetter!” Moreover, by referring to the Stationers' Registers we are able to ascertain who this obliging party was. He stands revealed. And his name is – not only in initials “W. H.” but – “William Hall!” And if we merely take the trouble to delete a trifling punctuation mark in that troublesome dedication, we will get – William Hall!
This Mr. William Hall, who seems to have
occupied himself with obtaining matter for his fellow printers, too, first
appears as apprenticed to one John Alide, a member of
the Stationers' Company from 1577 to 1584, in which latter year he is himself
admitted to membership in the Stationers' Company. In 1609 he brings out a book under his own
imprint, but giving his name in his imprint precisely as did Thomas Thorpe, by
initials, and occupying evidently about the same rank as Thorpe in the craft. He printed several works on theological
subjects – a book entitled The Displays
of Heraldrie, and another The Life of John Spelman, a notorious
pick-pocket captured in the Royal Chapel at
Had anybody undertaken, in the year 1640, to
assert that these Sonnets had been
dedicated to Lord Pembroke by Shakespeare (then only twenty four years
deceased) he would have been obliged to account for a book with this title-page:
“Poems by Will Shakespeare Gent: Printed at
To the Reader: I here presume, under favour, to present to your view some excellent and sweetly composed poems, which in themselves appear of the same purity the Author himself then living avouched. They had not the fortune, by reason of their infancy in his death, to have the due accommodation of proportionable glory with the rest of his ever-living works. Yet the lines will afford you a more authentic approbation than my assurance any way can to invite your allowance: in your perusal you shall find them serene, clear, elegantly plain – such gentle strains as shall recreate and not perplex the brain. No intricate or cloudy stuff to puzzle your intellect, but perfect eloquence such as will raise your admiration to his praise. This assurance will not differ from your acknowledgments, and certain I am my opinion will be seconded by the sufficiency of these ensuing lines. I have been somewhat solicitous to bring this forth to the perfect view of all men, and in so doing glad to be serviceable for the continuance of glory to the deserved author in these his poems.
But, if, as says Dr. Appleton Morgan in 1916, these Sonnets had already, thirty-one years before Benson, been dedicated to a powerful lord – Lord Chamberlain of England, Lord Pembroke – called not “Poems by Will Shakespeare” or by anybody else, but “These ensuing” (a phrase used by Thorpe in 1609 in the dedication of the Sonnets to “W. H.” and again in dedicating the Epictetus to Pembroke in 1616) – Sonnets! under whose favor does Benson “present” these poems, in face of Lord Pembroke, who is entitled to them and who is dead? When did the author “then living” “avouch” their purity? Was it purity of text or of sentiment that was thus “avouched?” How had Benson alone managed to hear of their author (Shakespeare) avouching anything about his Sonnets or about any other composition of his? Where, in all chronicle, is there a record of Shakespeare ever having mentioned to anybody a single one of his works, plays or poems, or anything else? And what was the “infancy” of the Sonnets (they had been in print for seven years when Shakespeare died in 1616) which deprived them of their “proportionable glory?”
Is there but the one answer to all these questions? And is not that answer the same that Dr. Morgan made to it forty years ago and from which he now recants?
To wit: that these Sonnets were never placed under the protection of a powerful nobleman; neither under the protection of Southampton nor Pembroke nor any other: that they were in 1640 – just where they were in 1609 – at large; little Japhets in search of a father. Or, if we prefer, still in 1640 when Benson lighted upon them, just as they were in 1609 when Thorpe took possession of them: publici juris -- like umbrellas – anybody's for the asking!
The contention of this article is, therefore, that the correlation of these four contemporary dedications establishes the fact that Dr. Morgan guessed right when he asserted, prior to his apostasy to himself, in THE CATHOLIC WORLD of April, 1916, that these troublesome Sonnets were not dedicated by Shakespeare to anybody, noble lord or commoner, or anybody else: that they were never dedicated to any noble lord by anybody; that a man named Thorpe dedicated them to one of his own personal friends; and that it is a great pity that Dr. Morgan, after establishing these postulates, should have recanted them, when they had been so abundantly buttressed and fortified by later discoveries. Dr. Morgan's proposition, which we have quoted above from THE CATIIOLIC WORLD, tossed another gauntlet into quite another arena, which, we think that he, with both tact and reason might have then and there abandoned to his successors. Then, like Lucretius, he could have reflected:
Sauve mare magno turbantibus sequora ventis
E terra longa alterius spectare laborem!
 The Shakespearean Myth (1880-1885), Shakespeare in Fact and in Criticism: Chapter, “Whose Sonnets?” (1888) and A Study in the Warwickshire Dialect (1885-1900). In the two latter Dr. Morgan said, that if challenged to prove from internal evidence that the author of the plays was the author of the poems and the sonnets, he would be unable to take up the challenge.
 Dr. Morgan elsewhere makes merry over these two gentlemen, who, he claims, after depriving their countrymen of their talents as journey-actors by retiring from the stage, became a green-grocer and a publican respectively, and were innocent of any suspicion of the nature of the boon they were reputed to have conferred upon their race.
 The Shakespearean Myth, p. 278.
 If The Lover's Complaint had also been in private circulation among Shakespeare's private friends, Meres does not mention the fact.
 Shakespeare in Fact and in Criticism, p. 74.