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Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Or, further, can the priority of publication itself prove anything in favour of actually prior composition?

We are tolerably certain, indeed, that the Venus and Adonis, and the Rape of Lucrece, were his two earliest poems, and though not printed until 1593, in the twenty-ninth year of his age, yet there can be little doubt that they had remained by him in manuscript many years. For Mr. Malone has made it highly probable that he had commenced as a writer for the stage in 1591, when he was twenty-seven years old, and Shakespeare himself assures us that the Venus and Adonis was the first heir of his invention.

Baffled, then, in the attempt to derive any satisfaction from outward documents, we may easily stand excused if we turn our researches towards the internal evidences furnished by the writings themselves, with no other positive data than the known facts that the Venus and Adonis was printed in 1593, the Rape of Lucrece in 1594, . . . Read More