Imatges de pàgina
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NOTE

MR. E. G. HARMAN, C.B., died on the 20th day of December,

1921, and consequently the proofs of this book did
not have the benefit of his personal revision. Some
of his friends have done their best to insure correc-
tion of obvious and typographical errors and the
index has been compiled by Mr. Charles Morant,
Assistant Librarian of the Inner Temple, who is
well versed in the bibliography of the period.

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PREFACE

10 some this volume may appear to be unduly discur

sive, because it combines historical with literary

criticism. To the author's mind, however, the defect of our literary criticism is that it too often ignores history, and of our history that it seldom condescends to make use of literature. We hear a great deal in these days about original research, and the earth is raked over for “documents," when all the while there are the open documents of printed books, notably in the form of poetry, of which little or no use is made. The cause of this seems to lie in the misconceptions which prevail as to the origin of poetry, and in the belief that it springs in some mysterious fashion out of nothing. Thus Sir Sidney Lee appears to think that he has disposed of The Tempest by protesting against the detection in it of "something more than the irresponsible play of poetic fancy," whatever that may be, and he asserts, as though it were not open to question, “ It is by accident, and not by design, that in Ariel appear to be discernible,” etc. (it is immaterial to mention what). Anyone who writes in this way only shows ignorance of the processes by which poetry is produced. For it is the most intellectual and definite of the arts and draws all its greatest effects out of reality. And its greatest effects are found in the poetry of action and characterization, that is to say in the epic and the drama. Genius must provide the combinations, but only reading, experience and observation can supply the knowledge.

In examining a large body of poetry we may thus expect it, at some point or other, to bring us into contact with contemporary life, and if, without indulging in rash and fanciful

1 A Life of William Shakespeare, 3rd edn., p. 256.

guesses, we can succeed in penetrating the veil of the form, we may hope to arrive at some substance of value for the purposes of historical knowledge. This is what I have attempted, and if to some I may seem, in the process, to have done violence to tradition, I hope they will acquit me of any other intention than the service of truth.

Appendices II. and III. are inserted with the twofold object (1) of illustrating the historical problems discussed in this book, (2) of correcting certain errors into which I have since realised that I fell in the constructions which I gave in my book on Spenser's works of the “ Cynthia ” poem, and of

” the character of “ Timias” in the Faerie Queene. These errors illustrate the difficulty which everyone must find of liberating himself from the authority of established opinion, and, as regards the Timias episodes, the very elusive character of Spenser's work, which it was one of my purposes in writing the book to expose, and by which, in this particular instance, I was myself deceived. The construction which I put forward was, as I regard it, an advance towards the truth, but not quite in the right direction.

Appendix IV., about Ralegh and Spenser's “ Indamour," is added for convenience of reference in connection with the discussion on Shakespeare's "Othello.”

E.G.H. London, September, 1919.

Some important dates in connection with this discussion :

Queen Elizabeth, b. 1533 ; ascended to the throne, 1558; d. 1603.
James I., reigned 1603-1625.

Francis Bacon, b. Jan., 1561 ; at Trinity College, Cambridge, 1573-1575; went to France, 1576; returned to England, March, 1579; Solicitor-General, 1607; Attorney-General, 1613; Lord Chancellor, 1618; impeached and sentenced, 1621; died, 1626.

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, 1532?–1588.
Sir Walter Ralegh, 1552?-1618.
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, 1567–1601.

William Shakespeare (Shakspur), 1564-1616. Supposed to have come to London about 1587; Venus and Adonis published, under the name of Shakespeare, 1593 ; returned to Stratford about 1596; first play published under his name 1598; first folio edition of plays published 1623.

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