The Mutual Flame: On Shakespeare's Sonnets and the Phoenix and the Turtle

The Mutual Flame: On Shakespeare's Sonnets and the Phoenix and the Turtle

The Mutual Flame: On Shakespeare's Sonnets and the Phoenix and the Turtle

The Mutual Flame: On Shakespeare's Sonnets and the Phoenix and the Turtle

Excerpt

It is many years since I first wrote on Shakespeare's Sonnets in an article called 'The Theme of Romantic Friendship in Shakespeare', which appeared in The Holborn Review during the year 1929 (xx, new series). That was a slight sketch only and, apart from the scattered comments in my subsequent books, nothing more was done on them until the Summer Vacation of 1953, when I began to get together what was to be my last Shakespearian volume. In this it seemed reasonable to include a short essay on the Sonnets, and I set to work.

But, as so often happens, the essay quickly developed beyond its intended proportions and, though it was completed in about a month, I already had in it the making of a book. It was set aside until the autumn term, when I decided to add a few pages on The Phoenix and the Turtle. It seemed as well to take a dutiful glance at Love's Martyr, which I had not read; but here again, an exciting set of significances started to unroll, and I was soon involved in a number of enquiries which I had hoped to avoid. Nevertheless, and though the autumn was busy, with the normal run of University work and a number of lecture excursions, the complete text was in the publishers' hands by the end of term. This I mention since, the work having been done under pressure, I am only too well aware that it may contain, here or there, a slip, if not a blunder, the more likely because the second part of the book enters fields of social history new to me. But the significances that cluster about the Phoenix were multiplying so fast that I dared not let the work expand; had I lingered over it into another term it would have been, not twice, but six times its present length, and might not have reached publication.

In the following pages I have tried to maintain my usual concentration on the timeless poetry without altogether avoiding secondary considerations of biography and event. These I

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