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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: The Order of the Sonnets
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1476  Monday, 21 July 2003

From:           Carl Fortunato <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Jul 2003 19:49:18 EDT
Subject: 14.1465 The Order of the Sonnets
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1465 The Order of the Sonnets

>In the reading I've done on the Sonnets I haven't come across a
>discussion of how authoritative the actual sequence of the poems is. I
>don't necessarily mean which are addressed to the Friend and which to
>the Lady--obviously content and thematic cohesion, etc. indicate that in
>most cases--but what about the order of the poems in their respective
>subsequences? Do we base this on the first publication? And do we know
>by what authority the original submitter(s) of the Sonnets for
>publication arranged them in the order we inherit, assuming that that
>publication was unauthorized? Some groupings are natural, of course,
>such as the first batch entreating the Friend to marry and reproduce,
>but others seem fairly arbitrary. And do we have a best guess as to how
>the poems went from private circulation into print? (These are clearly
>neophyte questions, but as I'm admitting my ignorance, I know you'll go
>easy on me, thanks for which.)

I have a book of the Sonnets published in 1935 by J.M. Dent & Sons which
presents them in a different order than the usual.  The editor (M.R.
Ridley, M.A.) claims to have used an idea by one Sir Denys Bray which
produces an order of the sonnets using mechanical means, something
called a "rhyme-link," which I don't know the details of.   The editor
claims that this mechanical method (whatever it is) produces an order
more coherent and sensible than the order that has come down to us.
Actually, it seems a pretty sensible order to me to.  The order of the
first ten are: 20, 91, 25, 31, 53, 62, 22, 18, 126, 65.   I have no idea
if Mr. Bray's idea received any attention at the time, or if it was
thoroughly debunked, or what.  The book references "The Original Order
of Shakespeare's Sonnets," Sir Denys Bray, Methuen, 1925 as the source
which contains the details of the actual method.

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