“The Living Record” – 19 – What They Said…

I figure why not pause a moment to look back at some of the statements that have been made about the Sonnets:

PERSONAL
“Scorn not the Sonnet … With this key, Shakespeare unlock’d his heart.”
William Wordsworth, 1827

INSIGHTFUL
“The Sonnets on the whole contain such a quality of thought as must astonish every reflecting reader.”
Alexander Dyce, 1832

FACTUAL
“The Sonnets as a whole are concerned with actual fact.”
Thomas Tyler, 1890

SPIRITUAL
“Whoever wrote the Sonnets must have known the depths of spiritual suffering.”
Barrett Wendall, 1894

CHRONOLOGICAL
“The analogy of a correspondence, carried on over years between friends, offers the best clue to their varying continuity.  Their numbers seem to have been chronologically arranged.”
George Wyndham, 1898

LETTERS OF CORRESPONDENCE
“There is much to support the view which holds that the Sonnets are a series of ‘verse letters’ written to two people on the subject of the poet’s relation to them.”
Edward Hubler, 1952

AUTHORIZED
“It is a reasonable assumption that Sonnets 1 through 126 are in sequence.  There is a logic and rightness in their order which is greatly superior to that of any proposed rearrangement … and this order is at least as likely to be the author’s as the editor’s.”
Northrop Frye, 1962

CONFESSIONAL
“What is astonishing about the Sonnets, especially when one remembers the age in which they were written, is the impression they make of naked autobiographical confession.”
W. H. Auden, 1964

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL
“There is nothing else quite like them in our literature, and none that have made so ineffaceable an impression upon men’s minds.  This is the reason: they are not ‘literary’ sonnets, in the way that so many sonnet sequences were … They were intensely autobiographical.”
A.  L. Rowse, 1964

PRIVATE DIARY
“He wrote them, I am quite certain, as one writes a diary, for himself alone, with no thought of a public.  When the sonnets are really obscure, they are obscure in the way that a diary can be, in which the writer does not bother to explain references which are obvious to him, but an outsider can’t know.”
W. H. Auden, 1964

CONNECTED
“The continuities are often self-evident … A rhythm, a rhyme, a quirk of syntax, or an echoing image: such minutiae, hardly discernible in conscious reading, knit the poems together … Links like these – and they recur throughout the sequence, with particular density in Sonnets 1-126 – suggest that the poems need no reordering.”
John Kerrigan, 1986

THE PROBLEM
“The real problem of the Sonnets is to find out who ‘Shake-speare’ was.  That done, it might be possible to make the crooked straight and the rough places plane – but not till then … It has sometimes been said that if we could only know who wrote the Sonnets we should know the true Shakespeare.  That he would be found among cultivated Elizabethan courtiers of high position, I have no doubt.”
Sir George Greenwood, 1908

THE LANGUAGE
“This autobiography is written by a foreign man in a foreign tongue, which can never be translated.”
T. S. Eliot, 1927

SEXUAL ORIENTATION
“William Shakespeare was almost certainly homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual.  The sonnets provide no evidence on the matter.”
Stephen Booth, 1977

THE TIME FRAME
“The question WHEN the sonnets were written is in many respects the most important of all the unanswerable questions they pose.  If it could be answered definitely and finally, there might be some chance of establishing to general satisfaction the identity of the friend, the dark woman and the rival poet (supposing that all were real individuals), of deciding what contemporary sources Shakespeare did or did not use, and even of determining whether the order is the author’s or not.  In the past and at the present, such a solution has been and remains an idle dream.”
Hyder E. Rollins, 1944

I emphasize that final sentence because, if you’ll forgive my boldness, the main goal of this “blog book” is to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that in fact “such a solution” has been found.

Published in: Uncategorized on January 29, 2009 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

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