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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: July ::
Re: Attributing Masterworks
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1661  Thursday, 18 July 2002

From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Jul 2002 02:13:32 -0700
Subject: 13.1635 Re: Attributing Masterworks
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1635 Re: Attributing Masterworks

The inclusion of the Funeral Elegy in the Norton and Riverside editions
seems to me to be one more sign of decline in Shakespeare editing. To
hear this poem as Shakespeare requires an ear of the purest tin (unless,
as T. Hawkes cleverly remarked, it was written by Shakespeare in the
style of Ford). Dr. Dodypoll is a harder case, and an interesting
discovery. The poetry, to judge from the little Richard Kennedy quoted
here, is very much better, though the computer program in my head tells
me it was not written by Shakespeare.

Meanwhile, several additions to the canon have been proposed by Peter
Levi, in his learned and beautiful book, The Life and Times of William
Shakespeare (1989), which to my ear sound like the real thing. This book
is included in the Norton bibliography, but apparently Levi's
suggestions escaped, or fell beneath, the editors' notice.

He proposes, for example, that a line attributed to Shakespeare much
later in the 17th century is Shakespeare's only extant juvenilia. It was
said to have accompanied a gift of gloves to the Stratford schoolmaster
in about 1581:

 The gift is small: the will is all: Alexander Aspinall.(p.31)

An attractive, if wispy, speculation.

More substantial is Levi's attribution of "The sonnet signed 'Phaeton',
printed as a compliment in front of Florio's 'Second Fruites' (1591)":

Phaeton to his friend Florio:

Sweet friend, whose name agrees with thy increase,
How fit a rival art thou of the spring!
For when each branch hath left his flourishing,
And green-locked summer's shady pleasures cease,
She makes the winter's storms repose in peace,
And spends her franchise on each living thing:
The daisies sprout, the little birds so sing,
Herbs, gums, and plants do vaunt of their release.
So when that all our English wits lay dead
(Except the laurel that is evergreen),
Thou with thy fruits our barrenness o'erspread
And set thy flowery pleasance to be seen.
Such fruits, such flowerets of morality,
Were ne'er before brought out of Italy.

Levi says, "No other writer of sonnets is as good as this except
Spenser, but Spenser would have signed it. The humour is Shakespeare's,
and so is the movement of thought, so is the seasonal colouring. This is
not Shakespeare's greatest sonnet, though not his worst either; it fits
its place well as one of his earliest, perhaps the very first." (97)

Levi includes another plausible discovery in an appendix, for those who
care. I have not seen anyone else mention these, though I suppose they
must have. When an edition includes this sonnet, but not the Funeral
Elegy, as a proposed addition, please pass on the news.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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