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No edition of Shakspere's Sonnets, apart from his other writings, with sufficient explanatory notes, has hitherto appeared. Notes are an evil, but in the case of the Sonnets a necessary evil, for many passages are hard to understand. I have kept beside me for several years an interleaved
copy of Dyce's text, in which I set down from time to time anything that seemed to throw light on a difficult passage. From these jottings, and from the Variorum Shakspeare of 1821," my annotations have been chiefly drawn. I have had before me in preparing this volume the
1 The poet's name is rightly written Shakespeare ; rightly also Shak pere. If I err in choosing the form Shak pere, I err with the owner of the name.
? To which this general reference may fuffice. I often found it convenient to alter nightly the notes of the Variorum Shakspere, and I have not made it a rule to refer each note from that edition to its individual writer.
editions of Bell, Clark and Wright, Collier, Delius, Dyce, Halliwell, Hazlitt, Knight, Palgrave, Staunton, Grant White; the translations of François-Vi&tor Hugo, Bodenstedt, and others, and the greater portion of the extensive Shakspere Sonnets literature, English and German. It is sorrowful to consider of how small worth the contribution I make to the knowledge of these poems is, in proportion to the time and pains bestowed. To render Shakspere's meaning clear has been
I do not make his poetry an occasion for giving lessons in etymology. It would have been easy, and not useless, to have enlarged the notes with parallels from other Elizabethan writers; but they are already bulky. I have been sparing of such parallel passages, and have illustrated Shakspere chiefly from his own writings. Repeated perusals have convinced me that the Sonnets stand in the right order, and that sonnet is conne&ed with sonnet in more instances than have been observed. My notes on each sonnet commonly begin with an attempt to point
out the little links or articulations in thought and word, which conne& it with its predecessor or the group to which it belongs. I frankly warn the reader that I have pushed this kind of criticism far, perhaps too far. I have perhaps in some instances fancied points of connexion which have no real existence; some I have set down, which seem to myself conje&ural. After this warning, I ask the friendly reader not to grow too soon impatient; and if, going through the text carefully, he will consider for himself the points which I have noted, I have a hope that he will in many instances see reason to agree with what I have said.
The text here presented is that of a conservative editor, opposed to conje&ure, unless conje&ure be a necessity, and desirous to abide by the Quarto (1609) unless strong reasons appear for a departure from it.
The portrait etched as frontispiece is a living face restored by Mr. L. Lowenstam from the celebrated death-mask found by Ludwig Becker. The artist closely follows his original. The evidence in support of the opinion that this malk was cast from a wax-mould taken from Shakspere's face is strong enough to satisfy a good many careful investigators; not strong enough to satisfy all. The portrait, then, may be viewed as possessing a real and curious interest, while yet of doubtful authenticity.1
Sonnets by Shakspere are first mentioned in Meres's Palladis Tamia, 1598: The sweete wittie soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honytongued Shakespeare, witnes . . . his sugred Sonnets among his private friends'. In the following year, 1599, Sonnets cxxxvIII. and CXLIV. were printed in the bookseller Jaggard's surreptitious miscellany The Passionate Pilgrim (see Notes, p. 239 and p. 242). Both of these
1 'I must candidly say I am not able to spot a single fuspicious fact in the brief history of this most curious relic'.-C. M. Ingleby, Shakespeare the Man and the Book, Part 1. p. 84. See on the death-mask articles by J. S. Hart in Scribner's Montbly, July 1874; by Dr. Schaffhaufen in Shakespeare Jahrbuch 1875; and by Lord Ronald Gower in The Antiquary, vol. ii., all of whom accept it as the veritable death-mask of Shakspere.