Notes and Queries, Number 55, November 16, 1850 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 49 pages of information about Notes and Queries, Number 55, November 16, 1850.


Authorship ofHenry VIII.”

In returning to the question of the authorship of Henry VIII., I am anxious to remove a misconception under which Mr. SPEDDING appears to labour relative to the purport of a remark I made in my last communication to you (Vol. ii., p. 198.) on this subject.  As we appear to be perfectly agreed as to the reasons for assigning a considerable portion of this play to Fletcher, and as upon this basis we have each worked out a result that so exactly coincides with the other, I conclude that Mr. SPEDDING, as well as myself, has rested his theory solely on positive grounds; that is, that he imagines there is strong internal evidence in favour of all that he ascribes to this writer.  It follows, therefore that the “third hand” which he thought he detected must be sought rather in what remained to Shakspeare, than in that which had been already taken from him.  I never for an instant doubted that this was Mr. SPEDDING’s view; but the inequality which I supposed he had observed and accounted for in this way, I was disposed to refer to a mode of composition that must needs have been troublesome to Shakspeare.  The fact is, that, with one or two exceptions, the scenes contributed by the latter are more tamely written than any but the earliest among his works; and these, different as they are, they recalled to my mind.  But I have no doubt whatever that these scenes were all written about the same time; my feeling being, that after the opening Shakspeare ceased to feel any great interest in the work.  Fletcher, on the other hand, would appear to have made a very great effort; and though some portions of the work I ascribe to him are tedious and overlaboured, no censure would weigh very strongly against the fact, that for more than two centuries they have been applauded as the work of Shakspeare.

As to the circumstances under which Henry VIII. was composed, it is an exceedingly difficult question; and if I venture, on the present occasion, to give the impression upon my mind, I do so, reserving to myself the full right to change my opinion whenever I shall have acquired more knowledge of the subject, or, from any other motive, shall see fit to do it.  I consider this case, then, as one of joint authorship; in point of time not much later than the Two Noble Kinsmen, and in other respects similar to that play.  If the conclusions of the article in the Westminster Review, to which Mr. SPEDDING alludes, be accepted, the writer of the introductory notice to Henry VIII. in the Illustrated Shakspeare, published by Tyas, will recognise the “reverent disciple” whom he hints at, but does not name.  In short, I think that {402} Fletcher was the pupil of Shakspeare; and this view, it appears to me, demands the serious attention of the biographer who next may study or speculate upon the great poet’s life.

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Notes and Queries, Number 55, November 16, 1850 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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