For I imagine that anyone can, in five minutes, fit up an hypothesis quite as valuable as Mr. Humphreys’. Here is one which at least has the merit of not making Shakespeare look a fool:—W. Jaggard, publisher, comes to William Shakespeare, poet, with the information that he intends to bring out a small miscellany of verse. If the poet has an unconsidered trifle or so to spare, Jaggard will not mind giving a few shillings for them. “You may have, if you like,” says Shakespeare, “the rough copies of some songs in my Love’s Labour’s Lost, published last year”; and, being further encouraged, searches among his rough MSS., and tosses Jaggard a lyric or two and a couple of sonnets. Jaggard pays his money, and departs with the verses. When the miscellany appears, Shakespeare finds his name alone upon the title-page, and remonstrates. But, of the defrauded ones, Marlowe is dead; Barnefield has retired to live the life of a country gentleman in Shropshire; Griffin dwells in Coventry (where he died, three years later). These are the men injured; and if they cannot, or will not, move in the business, Shakespeare (whose case at law would be more difficult) can hardly be expected to. So he contents himself with strong expressions at The Mermaid. But in 1612 Jaggard repeats his offence, and is indiscreet enough to add Heywood to the list of the spoiled. Heywood lives in London, on the spot; and Shakespeare, now retired to Stratford, is of more importance than he was in 1599. Armed with Shakespeare’s authority Heywood goes to Jaggard and threatens; and the publisher gives way.
Whatever our hypothesis, we cannot maintain that Jaggard behaved well. On the other hand, it were foolish to judge his offence as if the man had committed it the day before yesterday. Conscience in matters of literary copyright has been a plant of slow growth. But a year or two ago respectable citizens of the United States were publishing our books “free of authorial expenses,” and even corrected our imperfect works without consulting us. We must admit that Jaggard acted up to Luther’s maxim, “Pecca fortiter.” He went so far as to include a piece so well known as Marlowe’s Live with me and be my love—which proves at any rate his indifference to the chances of detection. But to speak of him as one would speak of a similar offender in this New Year of Grace is simply to forfeit one’s claim to an historical sense.
What further palliation can we find? Mr. Swinburne calls the book “a worthless little volume of stolen and mutilated poetry, patched up and padded out with dirty and dreary doggrel, under the senseless and preposterous title of The Passionate Pilgrim.” On the other hand, Mr. Humphreys maintains that “Jaggard, at any rate, had very good taste. This is partly seen in the choice of a title. Few books have so charming a name as The Passionate Pilgrim. It is a perfect title. Jaggard also set up a good precedent, for this collection was published a year before England’s Helicon, and, of course, very many years before any authorized collection of Shakespeare’s ‘Poems’ was issued. We see in The Passionate Pilgrim a forerunner of The Golden Treasury and other anthologies.”