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Testimony of the Sonnets as to the Authorship of the Shakespearean Plays and Poems   By: (1842-)

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Testimony of the Sonnets as to the Authorship of the Shakespearean Plays and Poems

By Jesse Johnson

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS NEW YORK AND LONDON

The Knickerbocker Press

1899

Copyright, 1899

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

Entered at Stationers' Hall, London

The Knickerbocker Press, New York

DEDICATED TO ALBERT E. LAMB

PARTNER AND FRIEND FOR TWENTY YEARS OF THE ROYAL LINE OF LOYAL GENTLEMEN

CONTENTS

Introductory Scope and effect of the discussion 1 5

Chapter I The Sonnets contain a message from their author; they portray his real emotions, and are to be read and interpreted literally 7 18

Chapter II They indicate that the friend or patron of the poet was a young man, and of about the age of Shakespeare; and that their author was past middle life, and considerably older than Shakespeare 19 48

Chapter III Direct statements showing that the Sonnets were not written by their accredited author were not written by Shakespeare 49 58

Chapter IV The known facts of Shakespeare's history reveal a character entirely inconsistent with, and radically different from, the revelations of the Sonnets as to the character of their author 59 72

Chapter V The general scope and effect of the Sonnets inconsistent with the theory that they were written by Shakespeare 73 96

Chapter VI The results of the discussion summarized 97 99

INTRODUCTORY

The Shakespearean Sonnets are not a single or connected work like an ordinary play or poem. Their composition apparently extended over a considerable time, which may be fairly estimated as not less than four years. Read literally they seem to portray thoughts, modes or experiences fairly assignable to such a period. Though variable and sometimes light and airy in their movement, the greater portion appear to reveal deep and intense emotion, the welling and tumultous floods of the inner life of their great author. And their difficulty or mystery is, that they indicate circumstances, surroundings, experiences and regrets that we almost instinctively apprehend could not have been those of William Shakespeare at the time they were written, when he must have been in the strength of early manhood, in the warmth and glow of recent and extraordinary advancement and success.

It is this difficulty that apparently has caused many to believe that their literal meaning cannot be accepted, and that we must give to them, or to many of them, a secondary meaning, founded on affectations or conceits relating to different topics or persons, or that at least we should not allow that in them the poet is speaking of himself. Others, like Grant White, simply allow and state the difficulty and leave it without any suggestion of solution.

Before conceding, however, that the splendid poetry contained in the Sonnets must be sundered or broken, or the apparent reality of its message doubted or denied, or that its message is mysterious or inexplicable we should carefully inquire whether there is not some view or theory which will avoid the difficulties which have so baffled inquiry.

I believe that there is such a view or theory, and that view is that the Sonnets were not written by Shakespeare, but were written to him as the patron or friend of the poet; that while Shakespeare may have been the author of some plays produced in his name at the theatre where he acted, or while he may have had a part in conceiving or framing the greater plays so produced, there was another, a great poet, whose dreamy and transforming genius wrought in and for them that which is imperishable, and so wrought although he was to have no part in their fame and perhaps but a small financial recompense; and that it is the loves, griefs, fears, forebodings and sorrows of the student and recluse, thus circumstanced and confined, that the Sonnets portray... Continue reading book >>




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