Who was the Dark Lady of the Sonnets? Well, this being 1964, Mr. Burgess would have it that she was Moorish Negress by whom Shakespeare fathered a son. But that is only one of the surprises in this brilliantly non-chronological version of Shakespeare's life. One first must get used to Burgess's style which is in an Elizabethan telegraphese often as dense as Finnegan's Wake. The beauty of the prose, which is astonishing, is often at the expense of the story, a highly entertaining one. Young WS (the hero is known by his initials) is trapped into early paternity by Anne Hathaway. For a while he is seduced into being a school-teacher for a wretched family. However, since childhood, he has had a vision of a dark mistress and has been writing verses for her. In London he falls into the circle of Henry Wriothesley, a fop, and composes Venus and Adonis for him while he is also homosexually victimized. He meets his Negress mistress, the love of his life, and sets her up in housekeeping only to have Wriothesley steal her from him. By the novel's end WS has lost all, but gained compassion, jowls and syphilis, and discovered himself a cuckold. The novel's no classic but the writing's grand.