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NO TRUE LIKENESS OP SHAKSPERE.
The likeness of Shakspere in the Folio of 1623 has frequentlybeen called "an abominable libel on humanity." And yet its fidelity is certified by Ben Jonaon in laudatory lines. Jonson was Bacon's friend and enthusiastic admirer. If there was an original portrait of that wooden face it has never been found. If there was a better likeness of Shakspere in existence why was it not reproduced in that famous Folio? The same ugly engraving reappeared in all the later editions up to 1685.
The bust on the monument at Stratford was first noticed in 1623. It was not taken from life, and is unlike any picture of Shakspere. It presents him in the act of composition, and "the viscomica" says Boaden, "so broadens his countenance, that it is hardly a stretch of fancy to suppose him in the actual creation of Falstaff himself." More likely, we should say, Falstaff was Shakspere—Fall-staff, Shake-spear.
The most familiar pictures of Shakspere are very different from either of these, and generally far more intellectual and refined. They are pretended copies of what is called the Chandos portrait, but are not much like it. The Chandos picture was painted by an unknown artist, and has been altered by a later hand. It is said to have been owned by Sir William Davenant, who died in 1668; and he is said to have obtained it from an actor named Joseph Taylor, who died about 1653 at the age of 70. This we gather from Boaden's 1' Portraits of Shakspere," 1824. But now comes a further statement purporting to be written in Mr. Gunther's Folio, by one Charles Lomax, in 1781, as follows:
"The only original picture now extant of Shakespeare was painted by Joseph Taylor, one of the actors," &c.
The rest of the pretended information agrees with what we find in Boaden's book, which has a picture taken from the Chandos portrait quite different from those we generally see, and not much like the Droeshout engraving in the Shakspere Folio.
Shakspere probably never had a portrait taken.
THE SONNETS OF SHAKSPERE
FRANCIS BACON TO THE EARL OF ESSEX AND HIS BRIDE, A. D. 1590.
"The mystery of the Sonnets will never be unfolded."
—Richard Grant White, 18(55. "All is supposition; the mystery is insoluble."
—Dr. Cllarle» Maekay, 1884. The mystery unfolded by \V. H. Burr, July 81, 1883.
The first published poem of Shakspere, so far as known, was "Venus and Adonis," in 15!)3. It was dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, then about twenty years of age. Five or six editions were called for in nine years. The "Sonnets " did not appear till 1609. The latter poem has 154 stanzas of 14 lines each; the first 126 are addressed to a beautiful and ardently beloved youth; the remainder to the young mau's betrothed.
As to the merits of the composition, the American Cyclopedia says:
''These 'Sonnets,' though deformed with occasional conceits, far surpass all other poems of their kind in our own language, or perhaps any other."
The dedication is in these words:
"To the onlie begetter of | these insuing Sonnets | Mr. W. H. all happinesse | and that eternitie | promised by | our everliving poet | wisheth | the well-wishing | adventurer in | setting forth | T. T."
Some have believed that "Mr. W. H." was William Herbert; and a German critic supposes the initials to signify "William Himself." But the American Cyclopedia says:
'' Tq whom they were written, and in whose person is among the most difficult of unsolved literary problems. . . . Who this 'onlie begetter' was no man has yet been able satisfactorily to show."*
• In regard to the hypothesis that "W. H." was William Herbert, the same authority says there is almost as much ground for the notion that the person addressed was Queen Elizabeth in doublet and hose.
In 1872 we first read Nathaniel Holmes's "Authorship of Shakspere ;" since then we have never entertained a reasonable doubt that Bacon was the author of the Plays. In 1882 we reread them all in the light of that discovery; but until July 31, 1883, we had never read a page of the "Sonnets," nor when we began to read them on that day did we remember to have heard who "W. H." was supposed to be. But coming to the twenty-fifth sonnet, we suspected that the poem was addressed to the Earl of Essex, and subsequent research confirmed that suspicion.
Herbert was sixteen years younger than Shakspere, and nineteen years younger than Bacon. If, therefore, the poem was written in 1590, which we purpose to show, it is impossible for Herbert to have been the
* Dr. Charles Mackay attempts to solve the problem in an elaborate article in the Nineteenth Century, August, 1884, entitled "A Tangled Skein Unravelled." He claims only to have found indications of jnixed authorship. But this only makes the tangle worse, which began with Shakspere's ostensible authorship; and the last despairing words of the astute unraveller are: "All is supposition, the mystery is insoluble."
"onlie begetter of these Sonnete," for he was then only ten years old.
Of course no one will date their composition as late as 1609, when Shakspere was forty-five and Bacon forty-eight. At that time the former had retired from the stage, and Bacon had been for six years King's counsel and three years a married man. And certainly two sonnets (138 and 144) were composed as early as 1599, for they are repeated at the beginning of "The Passionate Pilgrim," which was first published in that year.
All the internal and external evidence points to the year 1590 as the date, Francis Bacon as the writer, and the Earl of Essex as the person addressed.
It is said that Bacon made the acquaintance of Essex about 1590, but it would be remarkable if he did not know him years before. In sonnet 104 the poet says:
"Three winters cold
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Let us suppose that Bacon began to cultivate the Earl's friendship in 1590. He was then twenty-two years old; three years earlier, when Bacon first saw him, the Earl was " fresh ;" now he is "yet green."*
Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex, was born Nov. 10, 1567, and was beheaded for treason
*A letter from Bacon to the Earl of Leicester, asking for his furtherance in some suit which the Earl of Essex had moved in his behalf, has recently beenfound, written in 1588. ^Spedding's " Bacon," 1878, i, SO, note.)
Feb. 25, 1601. He succeeded to the title at ten years of age. At twenty he was appointed master of the horse. At twenty-one the Queen created him captain-general of the cavalry, and conferred on him the honor of the garter. In the same year an expedition was undertaken against Portugal, and he secretly followed the armament. This was without the Queen's permission, but he was quickly reconciled with her after his return, and at once assumed a superiority over Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Charles Blount, rival competitors for royal favor. He was challenged by Blount and wounded in the knee, and the Queen is said to have expressed her gratification that some one had taken him down, as otherwise there would be no ruling him. He was an accomplished scholar and patron of literature. He erected a monument to Spenser and gave an estate to Bacon.
But we have omitted one striking characteristic which has an important bearing on the question of his identity with "Mr. W. H." The young Earl of Essex was a remarkably handsome man. Now the beauty of the person addressed in the "Sonnets" is a constantly recurring theme, and the burden of the poem is an appeal to the beloved and beautiful young man to marry. It begins thus:
"From fairest creatures we desire increase,
The next Sonnet begins:
"When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
The last line of Sonnet 13 reads:
"You had a father; let your son say so."