From 'My Lyrical Life' (1889)

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Shakspeare Quarto, pp.  490, price 12s.  6d.,
substantially a New Work and not a Reprint.





A New Work on Old Lines.
A Rational Plea on behalf of Shakspeare's Sonnets. 
A Permanent Reply to his Misinterpreters.
A Labour of Love dedicated to his Lovers.
A necessary Supplement to all Editions of his Works.


Our most observant Man, most unobserved;
Maker of Portraits for Humanity!
He held the Mirror up to Nature's, face, 
Forgetting with colossal carelessness
To look into it and reflect his own: 
Even in the Sonnets he put on the Mask. 
And was, at times, the Player as in the Plays.G.  M.


St.  James's Gazette,
January 7th, 1889.

    "Mr. Massey published, more than twenty years ago, an exposition of his Theory that 'Shakspeare's Sonnets' are partly personal and partly dramatic.  In the handsome volume before us he has restated that exposition in an emended form, and produced further evidence in its favour.  Mr. Dyce had previously declared that, after repeated perusals, he was convinced that the greater number of these sonnets were com­posed in an assumed character, on different subjects, and at different times, for the amusement, and probably at the suggestion, of the author's intimate associates.  Mr. Massey duly admits that this conviction forms the kernel of the nut which he claims to have cracked, only his theory goes much further.  For it unmasks, he believes, the characters assumed, unfolds the nature of the various subjects, and identifies the intimate associates of Shakspeare who supplied both suggestion and subjects for his Sonnets.  The question whether Mr. Massey has demonstrated the truth of his important and interesting theory is one that we cannot answer unconditionally.  But he has unquestionably won for himself the right to say, as he does in effect, that his evidence and arguments are armour­proof against the slings and arrows of anonymous criticism. He challenges the Shakspearians, who contend that the confessions of the Sonnets are autobiographical, to pick up his glove.  Till men, therefore, of the calibre and lore of Professor Dowden and Mr. Furnivall answer this challenge and confute the man who issues it, Mr. Massey's theory may be fairly accepted as substantially correct!  And on the assumption that it is, he does not overstep the modesty of nature in calling his present book 'a necessary supplement to all editions of Shakspeare's works.'  For it wipes away all the spots which a misrepresentation of the Sonnets has brought their readers to see in Shakspeare.  Hallam wished regretfully that these confessions had never been written. Carlyle and Emerson sighed over the dismal secrets which they were supposed to reveal. And the mistake made by these distinguished men was repeated and exaggerated by C. A. Brown in his confident analysis of 'Shakspeare's Autobiographical Poems,' half a century ago.  We need not mention again the names of those critics who are still bound hand and foot to that analysis. " 

"But, in justice to Mr. Massey, it must be said that many of his most important conclusions have been stolenor let as say 'conveyed'by some critics who are loudest in repudiating his dramatic interpretation. Palman qui meruit ferat. . . . . The gist of his arguments, admirable and valuable as it is to the last degree."



"Your monumental book's a trifle bulky
 (Five hundred pages turn some critics sulky,
 My massive MASSEY), but 'tis full of 'meat,’
 And sown with Song as masculine as sweet. 
 Mellifluous echoes of the master-rhymes, 
 Whose music filled the Great Armada times 
 Three centuries since, and still moves heart and brain 
 More than the pageantries of Drury Lane.
 'Tush! none but minstrels' like of sonneting,' 
 Sings SHAKSPEARE'S self with an ironic ring. 
 Minstrels at least will thank you; for the rest 
 Who have not time or heart for the Great Quest 
 After the Secrets of the Sonnets, these
 May dip and taste where there's so much to please 
 Both student bee and social butterfly; 
 Whilst all will track with grateful heart and eye 
 Your slaughtering of that colossal Sham
 Egregious DONNELLY'S Great Cryptogram!"


Illustrated, London News.

"Mr. Massey has maintained his theory with so much learning, argument, and ingenuity, that he has made a case upon which they alone who have devoted many years of their lives to the study of Shakspeare, his Sonnets, his friends, and his times, are competent to deliver a decisive opinion.  To us Mr. Massey appears to have established his theory far more completely than most theories, which rest to a considerable extent upon conjecture, probability, and the internal evidence of writings, can be established.  That he pleads his cause with great ingenuity, and that he has brought immense research to hear upon his labours, is undeniable.  His theory, moreover, has the advantage of vindicating Shakspeare's moral character.  The work also rendered necessary certain Biographies, which will be found highly interesting.  Let the volume itself be read. It certainly deserves very close attention."


Pall Mall Gazette.

 "Mr. Massey has explained the Sonnets of Shakspeare with­out any such strange and revolting suppositions as others have brought to bear upon the task.  We believe he has made real and substantial discoveries in the subject-matter of these beautiful but perplexing poems: but we should be compelled, if we thought he had produced a mere Critical Romance, to own that it was a most interesting and a noble one-interest­ing by its intimate connection with the records of several historic characters, and ennobled by the healthy and warm­hearted sympathies which have animated his investigations.  While this new division of the parts gives to the greater number of Sonnets a more rich, delicate, and elevated significa­tion, we find it strongly enforced by the historical memorials with which it is connected in the present copious and thorough commentary.  We hope our contemporaries will not generally under-rate the necessary obscurity of the subject investigated, nor the immense value of the light that may have been thrown upon it."



"Accept the warmest thanks of two fervent Shakspearians for your noble book on Shakspeare's Sonnets and his Private Friends. My husband and I have read it with thorough delight. Let me especially thank you for the portions headed 'Poet and Patron: their personal friendship,' and 'The Man Shakspeare.'  I have often felt, with you, that Antonio and Bassanio were dramatized pictures of Shakspeare and his beloved friend of the Sonnets.  That Southampton was this worshipped friend of Shakspeare you have admirably demonstrated; and thereby confirmed my own long-felt conviction, derived from the evidence contained in the two dedications to 'Venus and Adonis' and to 'Lucrece.'  Shakspeare was not the man to write lightly and meaninglessly such words as 'The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end,’ and 'what I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part of all I have devoted yours!'   Shakspeare was not the man to write thus to his friend Southampton overtly, and to write to his friend of the Sonnets as he there does, unless they were one and the same person.  Mr. COWDEN-CLARKE will add his own acknowledgments with his own hand; and pray accept those offered in earnest gratitude by yours faithfully......."



"P.S.—In following the example of my wife—which every man who has a full sense—in every sense of his vow, would do,—I subscribe her testimony of admiration of your noble work,—subjoining as 'rider,' that I cannot name the day when I have received so large a satisfaction from the perusal of a homage dedicated to the Mind of our World that we implicitly venerate and cordially love.  I cannot close this brief testimony of my delight, without reference to a Memoir I read in number 17 of The Working Man.  The whole record intensely interested me; but at the four lines, telling of the poet's mother, I went in admiration (as Essex would say) 'upon the knees of my heart.'—Every good wish attend you and your work,—Yours faithfully....."



"I am deep in the subject which your volume treats with such profound research and sagacity.  It was my companion last Autumn when I made an excursion to the North, and I had much pleasure in lending it at Alnwick to Lady —, who is a woman quite worthy of such a book and such a theme.  Do me the favour to accept a copy of the small volume of poems which I printed two years ago.  If Homer is to be trusted, it will not be the first time that brass has been given in exchange for gold, and you will kindly allow the feeling with which it is offered to make up for the want of intrinsic value.—Believe me, dear Sir, very sincerely yours, STRATFORD DE R."


"Come farfalla, che la luce attira,
 Alla vorace fiamma abbrucia e spira,
 Cosi, dell' arte al sacro fuoco, anch 'io 
 M'incendio tutto, per fatal desio!

 Per te Massey la sorte e ben diversa!
 L'istinto che ti sprona non t'avversa.
 Audranne la salma, sepolta e pesta,
 Ma con 1'opere tue, if Genio resta! "



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