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So Long as Men Can Breathe: The Untold Story of Shakespeare's Sonnets
     

So Long as Men Can Breathe: The Untold Story of Shakespeare's Sonnets

by Clinton Heylin
 

In this lively, fascinating account of the publication of Shakespeare's Sonnets, noted biographer Clinton Heylin brings their convoluted history to light, beginning with the first complete appearance of the Sonnets in print in May, 1609. He introduces us to the “unholy alliance” involved in this precarious enterprise: Thomas Thorpe

Overview

In this lively, fascinating account of the publication of Shakespeare's Sonnets, noted biographer Clinton Heylin brings their convoluted history to light, beginning with the first complete appearance of the Sonnets in print in May, 1609. He introduces us to the “unholy alliance” involved in this precarious enterprise: Thomas Thorpe, the publisher, a self-described “well wishing adventurer;” George Eld, the printer, heavily embroiled in large-scale pirating; William Aspley, the prestigious bookseller, who mysteriously ended his association with Thorpe soon after.

Leaving the calamitous world of Elizabethan publishing, Heylin goes on to chart the many editions of the Sonnets through the years and the editorial decisions that led to their present configuration. Passionate, astute, and brilliantly entertaining, the result is a concise and vivid history of perhaps the greatest poetry ever written.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews, 4/15/09
“[Heylin has] done his homework and presents in often frisky language some convincing answers to questions that have perplexed scholars for centuries. Did Shakespeare approve the publication of these intimate poems? Who was the ‘W.H.’ of the dedication? Who were the real-life prototypes for the Dark Lady, the Fair Youth and the Rival Poet? Did he write those last two weak Cupid sonnets? Or ‘A Lover’s Complaint,’ that long boring poem published with the Sonnets? Heylin demonstrates a scholar’s diligence…Will not endear Heylin to academics, but does disperse some smoke while fanning the flames of this fiery debate.”

Augusta Metro Spirit, 9/9 “A breathtaking account of the Sonnets…Heylin offers a stunning look at a literary mystery…They may be some of the greatest love poems of all time, but within the pages of Heylin’s latest exploration readers have the opportunity to learn that the Sonnets themselves are only the beginning of the story.”

Choice, October 2009 issue
“Offers a tantalizing examination of the role of the Stationers’ Company and the perils of copyright ownership in the 17th century…An interesting review of the publication history of Sonnets, from early private circulation of the poems to the present century.”

Magill Book Review, October 2009
“A fascinating, scholarly and thorough history of Shakespeare’s sonnets from 1590 to 2009. Nothing ever written about William Shakespeare and his works is without controversy; nor will this volume escape controversy. Clinton Heylin has taken on one of the most controversial subjects in this stellar, painstaking book."

Reference and Research Book News, November 2009
“This new angle on the sonnets and the background to their publication is intriguing and worth including in any Shakespeare library.”

Midwest Book Review
“Highly entertaining, educational, and recommended reading.”

Library Journal

With clear prose and an obvious love for his subject, Heylin (Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades) here celebrates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's sonnets, following the convoluted history of how they came to be published in 1609 and spinning off the tale of subsequent printings, editorial decisions, and the players who made it happen. Shakespeare circulated the sonnets among his friends with no intention of publishing them, since he thought they wouldn't make him any money. Publisher George Eld, a somewhat shady character with a tendency to pirate authors' works, and Thomas Thorpe, an adventurer trying to make a name for himself in the London publishing world, got hold of what were purported to be Shakespeare's sonnets and published them. Following clues, Heylin attempts to answer questions of authorship, how the sonnets were "edited," and who selected their printing sequence. The book ends with all the sonnets in the order and wording set by Thorpe. VERDICT This is more of a literary detective story than a deep analysis of the sonnets themselves that will interest all lovers of Shakespeare and literature.—Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas, Galveston


—Susan L. Peters
Kirkus Reviews
The author of Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades (1991) and Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry (1995) concludes that an even more famous bard was both victim and beneficiary of "booklegging" when Shake-speares Sonnets appeared in 1609. Heylin alludes frequently to his hero Dylan ("the Shakespeare of his day?") and sees numerous correlations between the mysterious case of the Sonnets and the bootlegging of rock recordings. But he has also done his homework and presents in often frisky language some convincing answers to questions that have perplexed scholars for centuries. Did Shakespeare approve the publication of these intimate poems? Who was the "W.H." of the dedication? Who were the real-life prototypes for the Dark Lady, the Fair Youth and the Rival Poet? Did he write those last two weak Cupid sonnets? Or "A Lover's Complaint," that long boring poem published with the Sonnets? Heylin demonstrates a scholar's diligence and even makes a quick allusion to Jonathan Bate's forthcoming Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare. But the author has come to bury, not praise most previous scholars and theorists, including venerable Shakespearean A.L. Rowse. Heylin is particularly disparaging about the work of Katherine Duncan-Jones, editor of Arden's 1997 edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Only near the end does he credit Duncan-Jones for being "the first modern academic" to recognize that the 108 "Fair Youth" sonnets are "a sequence unto themselves." Heylin's primary complaint about most of the experts is their determination to make what few facts there are conform to preconceptions-e.g., that Shakespeare could not have been bisexual. The authornominates minor poet John Davies as the most likely candidate to have snitched the sonnets and composed "A Lover's Complaint."Will not endear Heylin to academics, but does disperse some smoke while fanning the flames of this fiery debate.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306818059
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
05/26/2009
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Clinton Heylin is the author of many books, including Behind the Shades, widely regarded as the definitive biography of Bob Dylan. He lives in Somerset, England.

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