NOTES AND QUERIES. [9 th s. ix. FEB. s, 1902.
who had, we are told, "at convenient leisures favourablie perused it, being as yet in written hand." It has been suggested that the earl may have written the introductory notices which precede the poems in this work. But that supposition is altogether untenable, for, although they are mostly put in the third person, they are of such a character and so fully describe the sources whence the poet drew his inspiration, that we are forced to the conclusion that no other hand than hi could have composed them.
However, that is a matter which needs no further argument on this occasion. We are now only concerned with the above-quoted sonnet and its authorship, which must be unhesitatingly ascribed to Thomas Watson. That it was printed in 1593 is indisputable. Furthermore, one might call it an echo of another poem in the ' Passionate Centurie of Love ' (Ixxxix.), the first twelve lines of which begin with the word "love," just as the corresponding number end with it in the one under discussion. And what is still more remarkable is the fact that the " annotation " prefixed to this piece is written in the first person, so that all doubt is removed.* I do not claim any great merit for the lines, but they are peculiar in their way, and should be assigned to their rightful author, who was Thomas Watson, despite their attribution to the Earl of Oxford on the authority of "MS. Rawl. Poet. 85, in Bodleian Library," by Prof. Arber in his excellent volume.
De Vere's fame as a poet is for the most part legendary. We have scarcely anything left that we may regard as the genuine offspring of his muse. There can be no doubt that he once enjoyed a considerable reputa- tion. Puttenham, in his 'Arte of English loesie, published in 1589, writes as follows :
"And in her Maiesties time that now is are sprong up an other crew of Courtly makers Noble men and Gentlemen of her Maiesties owne ser- vauntes, who have written excellently well as it would appeare if their doings could be found out
nvfnf| t th fi n ' ble G ? nfcl eman Edward Earle Uxtord. Arber's reprint, p. 75. f
This testimony is emphatic, but indefinite, and savours of adulation, in which the writer- was an adept. We get something more ' v ? P '/A' y here he bestows praise on i Earle of Oxford and Maister Ed wardes v \ ^ la , iestie Chappell for Comedy and Enterlude." In fchi, IL kst cha e p a fc y er an d f
book i., we have a very interesting criticism of English poets, dead and living, from Chaucer and Gower to "Sir Philip Sydney and Maister Challenner, and that other Gentleman who wrate the late shepheardes Callender," which proves he did not know Spenser's name ; but no mention is made of Thomas Watson, though his chief poem had been in print for seven years. But the greatest genius of all, according to Putten- ham, was Elizabeth herself ! Here are his own words :
"But last in recitall and first in degree is the Queene our soveraigne Lady, whose learned, deli- cate, noble Muse, easily surmounteth all the rest that have written before her time or since, for sence, sweetnesse and subtillitie, be it in Ode, Elegie, Epigram, or any other kinde of poeme Heroick or Lyricke, wherein it shall please her Maiestie to employ her penne, even by as much oddes as her owne excellent estate and degree exceedeth all the rest of her most humble vassals."
I have quoted this amazing piece of flattery to show that the praise was as ill bestowed in the case of the queen as of the earl. What has the latter left to justify Puttenham's eulogium 1 A few pieces, among which the best is the one entitled ' The Judgment of Desire,' that has held a place in almost every anthology since the publication of Percy's ' Reliques.' Percy tells us that he found it entire in the ' Garland of Good-will,' printed about the close of the sixteenth century. Of this poem Ellis says it is the " only one of his productions which can be said to rise a little above mediocrity," which opinion con- firms Percy's, where we read (vol. ii. book ii.): "Perhaps it is no injury to his reputation that few of his compositions are preserved for the inspection of impartial posterity." This well-known piece is not given in the 'Golden Treasury,' nor in Prof. Arber's 'Shakespeare Anthology,' but it is quoted in full by Prof. Saintsbury in his 'History of Elizabethan Literature,' pp. 127-8, to prove that Lord Oxford was "a charming writer of verse." But are the lines really his, though, so to speak, guaranteed by Puttenham himself, who quotes a portion of them 1 At the third reference to the ' Arte of English Poesie ' we find the following passage, which I beg to transcribe in its entirety, as so much depends on it :
"Edward Earle of Oxford a most noble and learned Gentleman made in this figure of responce an emble of desire otherwise called Cupide which from his excellencie and wit, I set downe some part of the verses, for example.
When wert thou borne desire ?
In pompe and pryme of May,
By whom sweete boy wert thou begot ?
By good conceit men say,