William Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 6

By Brian Vickers | Go to book overview

308.

Nathan Drake, Shakespeare and Elizabethan poetry

1798

From Literary Hours, or Sketches Critical and Narrative (Sudbury, 1798); this text is from the second edition, ‘Corrected and Greatly Enlarged’ (2 vols, Sudbury, 1800). In the preface Drake explains that in order to relieve ‘the dryness’ of criticism he has interspersed original tales and pieces of poetry. Six of the papers had been previously published in the journals.

Nathan Drake, M.D. (1766-1836), was a doctor who practised in Suffolk for over forty years, and published many collections of essays, including The Gleaner (1810), Winter Nights (1820), Evenings in Autumn (1822), Noontide Leisure (1824), and Mornings in Spring (1828). His two-volume collection Shakespeare and his Times (1817) is a valuable digest of extant knowledge, which he followed with an anthology of criticism, Memorials of Shakespeare, or Sketches of his Character and Genius by various writers (1828).

[From ‘Number VI’. On the sonnet]

‘La brevità del sonetto non comporta, che una sola parola sia vana, ed il vero subietto e materia del sonetto debbe essere qualche acuta e gentile sentenza, narrata attamente, ed in pochi versi ristretta, e fuggendo la oscurità e durezza.’1

Comment, di Lor. de Med. sopra i suoi Sonetti.

Lorenzo de Medici has thus, in few words, accurately defined the true character of the Sonnet, a species of composition which has lately been cultivated with considerable success in England. Italy,

1 The brevity of the sonnet does not permit a single empty or superfluous word. The true subject matter of the sonnet should be some sharp and refined thought, suitably narrated, limited to a few verses, and avoiding all obscurity and harshness.’

-629-

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