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Of late Professor Rowse's books have been succeeding each other like a TV series. No sooner are we done with his Shakespeare, then we get his Harlowe; along the way there's also his edition of the Sonnets, plus his own autobiography, A Cornishman at Oxford. While behind these stand some other twenty or so titles. A very prolific man and a celebrated one. Nevertheless, with his latest entry, one wonders if he's not suffering from overexposure. The scholarship in Shakespeare's Southampton is of a singularly formidable nature, but the writing is pallid, perfunctory and almost totally devoid of charm. This may not bother Rowse's Oxbridge confreres, but this reviewer must confess he found it very hard to work up any interest in either Southampton's portrait or the Elizabethean/Jacobean eras which surround it. The book's cachet is Rowse's old hobbyhorse: Southampton was the young man Shakespeare addressed in the sonnets. This is presented ex cathedra, as if everyone had agreed to the candidacy. The remainder of the work is taken up with the Earl's hapless involvement in the Essex rebellion, his relations with James I who released him from prison, his marriage, his backing of the expedition to Virginia, his patronage of the arts, and his politics. On the latter point, Rowse enthuses thus: ""...a member of the government who is really, and recognized to be, a leader of the Opposition!"" The Earl ended up ""a dissatisfied man,"" but he was truly ""noble.

Publisher: Harper & Row