MR. W. H. by Leslie Hotson

MR. W. H.

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It seems we're back in the Sonnets game, which Rowse recently brought ""to an end for good and all"" when he ""unmistakably"" established Southampton as Shakespeare's Friend. Not so, says Hotson, serving up William Hatclifffe, and entirely new contender, doing double duty both as the Friend and the mysterious recipient ""Mr. W.H."" (Rowse's choice was Sir William Harvey.) Hatchifffe was once the Gray's nn Christmas King, the Pricne of Purpoole in an Elizabethan pageant, the clue to which our author discovered in a dusty volume of Campion's Works. At once the puzzle-pieces took shape. H's coat-of-arms had 2 quatrefoils: the Sonnets have 3 quatrains. His heraldic flower was the ""True-love"": so Shakespeare addressed his Friend. All those marriage promptings to ""secure the succession?"" Quite natural: H's ""role"" was a royal one. Then the name-play: ""..from HATe away she threw/And sav'd my LIFE saying not you."" HATLIFE meaning Hatcliffe, of course. (There are about 40 similar instances.) Lastly, the Bard frequented Gray's Inn: ergo he must have met H. Other adducing: the ""mortal Moon"" is not the Queen but the Spanish Armada; the Dark Lady was a one-time palace favorite; the Sonnet aren't ""queer."" So Hotson, with a really frightening barrage of seemingly supportive evidence, (like Rowse) lays down the law. And how can we not submit? Although his scholarly style is a deterrent.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1964
Publisher: Knopf