“The Living Record” – 7

In 1859, some four decades after Nathan Drake had made the first suggestion of Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of  Southampton as the fair youth of the Sonnets, a researcher identifying himself in The Athenaeum as “W. C. J.” noted that suggestions of Southampton’s motto ONE for ALL, ALL for ONE appear throughout.  The author adapted this motto “in different ways with considerable poetic and idiomatic license,” he added, citing three examples:

Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing,
Whose speechless song, being many seeming one.       Sonnet 8

And thou, all they, hast all the all of me.                          Sonnet 31

Since all alike my songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.                                Sonnet 105

Charlotte Stopes wrote of the Sonnets in 1922: “The twined threads of biography and autobiography are there on which to string the pearls of Shakespeare’s thought; and these twined threads can only be woven to fit Henry the third Earl of Southampton.  Shakespeare had no second dream; all his songs and praises were addressed ‘to one, of one, still such, and ever so.’ This was but a variant of Southampton’s motto.”

(The word “all” is used 118 times in the Sonnets; “one” appears thirty-nine times; and “alone” (combining ‘all’ and ‘one’) is used seventeen times.  Echoes of “one” are in “none” and  “won” and “wondrous.”)

Sonnet 105 is one of the two “instructional” verses cited in Chapter 5; and it’s loaded with further echoes of Southampton’s motto:

One thing expressing leaves out difference…
Fair, kind, and true, is all my argument…
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.
Fair, kind, and true, have often lived alone,
Which three, till now, never kept seat in one.

The other “instructional” verse, 76, contains the most important line of the entire sequence:   “Why write I still all one, ever the same.”

By inserting the earl’s motto, the poet was stating in both 76 and 105 that Southampton is the “one” subject of the Sonnets.

(The phrasing of “all one, ever the same” also incorporates Queen Elizabeth’s motto “Semper Eadem,” which she translated as EVER THE SAME.)

FOOTNOTE: Why did it take more than two centuries after the 1609 printing of the Sonnets for someone to suggest Southampton as the fair youth?

*  The  quarto of the Sonnets was suppressed and copies went underground until 1711; then it was not until 1780 when Edmund Malone observed that 1-126 must be to/about a male, not a female.

*  Scholars recognized that William of Stratford, a commoner, could not have had an intimate association with the Earl of Southampton.  Neither a friendship nor a love affair was possible.

* Therefore, given the assumption that Stratford Will was “Shakespeare,”  scholars had to rule out  Southampton as the “fair youth.”

Yet in 1817 Nathan Drake followed his own common sense and identified Southampton as the younger man. But this tended to rule out the Stratford man as the poet, leading to the “authorship question” that continues today.

Meanwhile the use of the mottos is evidence of a possible “special language” at work in the Sonnets…

Published in: Uncategorized on December 16, 2008 at 5:13 am  Comments (3)  
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