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"Venvs and Adonis.
Vilia miretur vulgus: mihi flauus Apollo
London Imprinted by Richard Field, and are to be sold at the signe
The title-page of the edition of 1594, 4to. does not differ in the most minute particular from that of the edition of 1593, excepting that there is a full point after the word "London." It also has 27 leaves.
"Venvs and Adonis.
Vilia miretur vulgus: mihi flauus Apollo
Field's device of the Anchor is found upon each of the above impressions. The edition of 1600, 8vo., only varies from that of 1596 in the imprint, which is "London. Printed by I. H. for Iohn Harison. 1600." The imprint of the 8vo. Edinburgh edition runs thus: "Edinburgh, Printed by John Wreittoun and are to be sold in his Shop a little beneath the salt Trone. 1627."
We are told by Shakespeare, in his dedication of this poem to the Earl of Southampton, in 1593, that it was "the first heir of his invention;" and as it was the earliest printed, so probably, it was the earliest written of his known productions. At what time it is likely that he commenced the composition of it, is a question which we have considered in the biography of the poet.
The popularity of it is indisputable: having been originally printed by Richard Field, in 1593, 4to., that edition' seems to have been soon exhausted, and it was republished by the same printer in 1594, 4to., before 25th June, because on that day, according to the Stationers' Registers, he assigned over his interest in it to John Harrison, for whom Field printed an octavo impression in 1596. Field's second edition of 1594 was unknown to Malone and his contemporaries; and as it was not a re-issue of some remaining copies of 1593 with a new title-page, but a distinct re-impression, it affords some various readings, and not a few important confirmations of the correctness of the older text, corrupted more or less in all subsequent editions. Harrison published his second edition in 1600, which was the fourth time "Venus and Adonis" had been printed in seven years. It had been entered at Stationers' Hall by W. Leake, in 1596, but no impression with his name has, we believe, come down to our day. After this date it went through the press many times, and copies in 1602, 1616, 1620, &c. are known: in 1627 it was printed by John Wreittoun, at Edinburgh.
The popularity of "Venus and Adonis " is established also by the frequent mention of it in early writers. It is probable that Peele died in 1597, and very soon afterwards his "Merry Conceited Jests" must have been published, although no edition of them is known older than that of 1607. In one of these, a tapster, "much given to
1 The memorandum of it in the Stationers' Registers runs thus :"18 April 1593.
"Richd Field] Entered as his Copy, licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Wardens, a book intitled Venus and Adonis."
2 Malone adverts to Richard Barnfield's notice of "Venus and Adonis," and "Lucrece," in 1598, (reprinted in 1605; see Bridgewater Catalogue, 4to, 1837, p. 23) as well as to William Barksted's allusion to it in 1607, in his "Myrrha the Mother of Adonis." To these may be added the praise of Shakespeare, and of his "Venus and Adonis," and "Lucrece," in the play of "The Return from Parnassus," which was certainly produced before the death of Queen Elizabeth. VOL. VIII.
poetry," is represented as having in his possession "the Knight of the Sun, Venus and Adonis, and other pamphlets." Thomas Heywood's "Fair Maid of the Exchange," was printed in 1607, but written some few years before, and there a young lover is recommended to court his mistress by the aid of "Venus and Adonis." How long this reputation, and for the same purpose, was maintained, may be seen from a passage in Lewis Sharpe's "Noble Stranger," 1640, where Pupillus exclaims, "Oh, for the book of Venus and Adonis, to court my mistress by!" Thomas Cranley, in his "Amanda," 1635, makes "Venus and Adonis" part of the library of a courtesan :
66 amorous pamphlets, that best like thine eyes, And songs of love, and sonnets exquisite ;
Among these Venus and Adonis lies,
With Salmacis and her Hermaphrodite ;
Pigmalion's there with his transform'd delight."
"Salmacis and her Hermaphrodite" refers to the poem imputed (perhaps falsely) to Beaumont, printed in 1604; and the third poem is "Pygmalion's Image," by Marston, published in 1598.
S. Nicholson, in his "Acolastus his Afterwitte," 1600, committed the most impudent plagiarisms from "Venus and Adonis ;" and R. S., the author of "Phillis and Flora," 1598, did not scruple to copy, almost with verbal exactness, part of the description Shakespeare gives of the horse of Adonis: we extract the following lines, that the reader may be able to make a comparison (See p. 366):
"His mayne thin hair'd, his neck high crested,
Our text of "Venus and Adonis," is that of the earliest quarto, 1593, which, for the time, is very correctly printed, and we will illustrate by a single quotation the importance of resorting to it: the line which there stands,
"He cheers the morn, and all the earth relieveth,”
is misprinted in all modern editions,
"He cheers the morn, and all the world relieveth."
The corruption was introduced in the quarto, 1594, and it has ever since been repeated. The same remark will apply to other changes; such as "all swoln with chasing," instead of "chafing;" "to love's alarm," instead of "alarms;" "from morn to night," instead of "till night," &c.; all which show strange carelessness of collation, but it is not necessary here to dwell upon them, as they are pointed out in the notes.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON, AND BARON of tichfield.
I KNOW not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burden: only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a god-father, and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it to your honourable survey, and your honour to your heart's content; which I wish may always answer your own wish, and the world's hopeful expectation.
Your honour's in all duty,