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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

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382                         Poems

1902," within six months of his death, at a ii%ie when he was
depressed physically because his health was failing and mentally
because he had been " editing his remains," reading and destroy-
ing old letters and brooding over the past. One o/ the subjects
given in the section " Titles and Siibjects " (ante) is " The dis-
eases and ordinary causes of mortality among friendships." I
suppose that he found among his letters something which awakened
memories of a friendship of his earlier life—a friendship that
had suffered from a disease, whether it recovered or died would
not affect the sincerity of the emotions experienced by Butler at
the time he believed the friendship to be virtually dead. I sup-
pose the Sonnet to be an In Memoriam upon the apprehended
death of a friendship as the preceding poem is an In Memoriam
upon the apprehended death of a friend.

This may be wrong, but something of the kind seems necessary
to explain why Butler should have called the Sonnet an Academic
Exercise. No one who has read Shakespeare's Sonnets Re-
considered will require to be told that he disagreed contemptuously
with those critics who believe that Shakespeare composed his
Sonnets as academic exercises. It is certain that he wrote this,
as he wrote his other Sonnets, in imitation of Shakespeare, not
merely imitating the form but approaching the subject in the
spirit in which he believed Shakespeare to have approached his
subject. It follows therefore that he did not write this sonnet as
an academic exercise, had he done so he would not have been
imitating Shakespeare. If we assume that he was presenting his
story as he presented the dialogue in " A Psalm of Montreal"
in a form " perhaps true, perhaps imaginary, perhaps a little
of the one and a little of the other" it would be quite in the manner
of the author of The Fair Haven to burlesque the methods of the
critics by ignoring the sincerity of the emotions and fixing on the
little bit of inaccuracy in the facts. We may suppose him to be
saying out loud to the critics: " You think Shakespeare's
Sonnets were composed as academic exercises, do you-? Very
well then, now what do you make of this ? " And adding aside
to himself: " That will be good enough for them ; they'll swallow

xii. A Prayer

Extract from Butler's Note-Books under the date of February
or March 1883 :