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“ LUCRECE," as it is merely called in the earlier impressions, came out in the year following “ Venus and Adonis,” and it was printed for John Harrison, the publisher of the edition of " Venus and Adonis,” in 1596. It had been previously entered, under a more explanatory title, in the Stationers' Registers :
“9 May 1594. “Mr. Harrison, sen.) A booke intitled the Ravyshement
of Lucrece." Like “Venus and Adonis," it was dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, but in a more confident and assured spirit.
This second production was, probably, not quite so popular as the first, and it was not again printed until 1598, for the same bookseller, who put forth a third edition of it in 1600: the fourth edition was issued in 1607: these are not so marked, and Malone tells us that he had heard of impressions in 1596 and 1602, but they have not since come to light; and our belief is, that “Lucrece was only printed four times between 1594 and 1607. An edition in 1616 purports to have been “newly revised and corrected;" but, as Malone truly states, “it is the most inaccurate and corrupt of the ancient copies ;” and he adds that “most of the alterations seem to have been made, because the reviser did not understand the poet's meaning.” That Shakespeare had nothing to do with the revision and correction of this edition requires no proof; and so little was it esteemed, that it was not followed in its changes in the edition of 1624, which also professes to have been “newly revised.” This last is accompanied by marginal notes, prosaically explanatory of incidents poetically narrated.
The earliest mention of “ Lucrece” occurs in the year in which it made its first appearance. Michael Drayton published his “Matilda,” (a poem in seven-line stanzas, like “Lucrece") in 1594, and there we meet with the following passage :
" Lucrece, of whom proud Rome hath boasted long,
She is remember'd, all forgetting me,
A difficulty here may arise out of the fifth line, as if Drayton were referring to a play upon the story of Lucrece, and it is very possible that one was then in existence. Thomas Heywood's tragedy, "The Rape of Lucrece," did not appear in print until 1608, and he could hardly have been old enough to have been the author of such a drama in 1594: he may, nevertheless, have availed himself of an elder play, and, according to the practice of the time, he may have felt warranted in publishing it as his own. It is likely, however, that Drayton's expressions are not to be taken literally, and that his meaning merely was, that the story of Lucreco had lately been revived, and brought upon the "stately stage" of the world: if this opinion be correct, the stanza we have above quoted contains a clear allusion to Shakespeare's “Lucrece;" but we are in no condition to decide the question, why Drayton entirely omitted it in the after impressions of his “ Matilda'."
Such was not the case with another mention of Shakespeare, by name, in connexion with the story of Lucretia, contained in commendatory verses to a poem, of considerable celebrity in its day, called “Willobie, his Avisa, or the true Picture of a modest Maide, and of a chast and constant Wife,” first printed in 1594, and subsequently in 159, 1605, and 1609?. The lines are these :
“ Though Collatine have dearly bought
Yet Tarquine pluckt his glistring grape,
The edition of “ Lucrece we have taken as our text is the first, which, like “Venus and Adonis," was printed by Richard Field, though not on his own account. It may be stated on the whole to be an extremely creditable specimen of his typography: as the sheets were going through the press, some material errors were, however, observed in them, and they are therefore in several places corrected. This fact has hitherto escaped remark, but the variations are explained in our notes.
Modern editors have performed their task without that attention to the ancient and authentic text which was due to the poet. Instances of unpardonable negligence, in this respect, are pointed out in the course of the poem, and it is therefore not necessary to dwell upon them here.
This point is considered in “ The Taming of the Shrew,” Vol. ii. p. 488. See also “ Notes and Emendations," 2nd edit. 1853, p. 148.
2 It may be doubted whether there was not an edition of the “Avisa" of Willobie (or Willoughby, as the name is sometimes spelt) between 1596 and 1605, because the impression in the latter year is called “the fourth."
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON, AND BARON OF TICHFIELD.
The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety'. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is your's; what I have to do is your's; being part in all I have, devoted your’s. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater’; mean time, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with all happiness.
Your lordship's in all duty,
1 -- a superfluous moiety.) As in “The Winter's Tale,” Vol. iii. p. 41, and in “ Henry IV., Part I.," Vol. iii. p. 372," moiety” only means part, share, or portion.
my duty would show greater ;] Some of the later impressions, the editions of 1607 and 1624 for instance, read should for "would.” In Malone's Shakespeare, by Boswell, inaccuracies begin even prior to the commencement of the poem, for the word "all," before "happiness," is omitted. So likewise with the Rev. Mr. Dyce's edition of “ The Poems of Shakespeare," 12mo, 1832: how far he is to be considered responsible for the text does not appear, but he has annotated it throughout.
Lucius Tarquinius (for his excessive pride surnamed Superbus) after he had caused his own father-in-law, Servius Tullius, to be cruelly murdered, and, contrary to the Roman laws and customs, not requiring or staying for the people's suffrages, had possessed himself of the kingdom, went, accompanied with his sons and other noblemen of Rome, to besiege Ardea : during which siege, the principal men of the army meeting one evening at the tent of Sextus Tarquinius, the king's son, in their discourses after supper every one commended the virtues of his own wife; among whom, Collatinus extolled the incomparable chastity of his wife Lucretia. In that pleasant humour they all posted to Rome; and intending, by their secret and sudden arrival, to make trial of that which every one had before avouched, only Collatinus finds his wife (though it were late in the night) spinning amongst her maids : the other ladies were all found dancing and revelling, or in several disports ; whereupon the noblemen yielded Collatinus the victory, and his wife the fame. At that time Sextus Tarquinius, being inflamed with Lucrece beauty, yet smothering his passions for the present, departed with the rest back to the camp; from whence he shortly after privily withdrew himself, and was (according to his estate) royally entertained and lodged by Lucrece at Collatium. The same night he treacherously stealeth into her chamber, violently ravisheth her, and early in the morning speedeth away. Lucrece, in this lamentable plight, hastily dispatcheth messengers, one to Rome for her father, another to the camp for Collatine. They came, the one accompanied by Junius Brutus, the other with Publius Valerius; and finding Lucrece attired in mourning habit, demanded the cause of her sorrow. She, first taking an oath of them for her revenge, revealed the actor, and whole manner of his dealing, and withal suddenly stabbed herself : which done, with one consent they all vowed to root out the whole hated family of the Tarquins ; and bearing the dead body to Rome, Brutus acquainted the people with the doer, and manner of the vile deed, with a bitter invective against the tyranny of the king; wherewith the people were so moved, that, with one consent and a general acclamation, the Tarquins were all exiled, and the state government changed from kings to consuls.
From the besieged Ardea, all in post,
And girdle with embracing flames the waist
Haply that name of chaste unhappily set
Where mortal stars, as bright as heaven's beauties,
With pure aspects did him peculiar duties.
That kings might be espoused to more fame,
But king nor peer to such a peerless dame.
Honour and beauty, in the owner's arms,