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Sunday, October 02, 2016

The Herbert Brothers' Other First Folio Dedication. (Page 2)

...Muses of this latter Age, then that which is owing to your Familie; whose Coronet shines bright with the native luster of its owne Jewels, which with the accesse of some Beames of Sydney, twisted with their Flame presents a Constellation, from whose Influence all good may be still expected upon Witt and Learning. 
At this Truth we rejoyse, but yet aloofe, and in our owne valley, for we dare not approach with any capacity in ourselves to apply your Smile, since wee have only preserved as Trustees to the Ashes of the Authors, what wee exhibit to your Honour, it being no more our owne, then those lmperiall Crownes and Garlands were the Souldiers, who were honourably designed for their Conveyance before the Triumpher to the Capitol. 
But directed by the example of some, who once steered in our qualitie, and so fortunately aspired to choose your Honour, joyned with your (now glorified) Brother, Patrons to the flowing compositions of the then expired sweet Swan of Avon SHAKESPEARE; and since, more particularly bound to your Lordships most constant and diffusive Goodnesse, from which, wee did for many calme yeares derive a subsistence to our selves, and Protection to the Scene (now withered, and condemn'd, as we feare, to a long Winter and sterilitie) we have presumed to offer to your Selfe, what before was never printed of these Authours. 
Had they beene lesse then all the Treasure we had contracted in the whole Age of Poesie (some few poems of their owne excepted, which already published, command their entertainement, with all lovers of Art and Language) or were they not the most justly admir’d, and belov’d Pieces of Witt and the World, wee should have taught our selves a lesse Ambition. 
Be pleased to accept this humble tender of our duties, and till we faile in our obedience to all your Commands, vouchsafe, we may be knowne by the Cognizance and Character of 
MY Lord, 
Your Honours most bounden

It bears mentioning that, in 1647, the plays of John Fletcher (Beaumont had died much earlier) were far more popular than those of Shakespeare.  Bringing The Bard into the dedication and two of the dedicatory poems would not have been designed to add to the luster of Fletcher.  Quite the opposite was the case: mentioning Shakespeare’s name together with Fletcher’s could only bring more luster to the name of the (at the time) only moderately popular Shakespeare.

So then why even bring Shakespeare and the First Folio up in a dedication to Philip Herbert?  Why even dedicate the Fletcher First Folio to Philip?  Perhaps the dedication celebrates an unusually intimate Shakespeare connection between the playwright and the Herberts.  Perhaps Fletcher had veen all too well aware during his life that in the sentiments of the Herberts, Shakespeare could never possibly be outshone by another.  His name must always be given first place.

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