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Master W. H., R. I. P.
Donald W. Foster
Vol. 102, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 42-54
Published by: Modern Language Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462491
Page Count: 13
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Thomas Thorpe's brief greeting to "Mr. W. H." in the 1609 Quarto of Shakespeares Sonnets has been one of the great conundrums of modern literary studies. But it is not Thorpe's only such greeting to survive. His remaining epistles, taken together with the dedications in many other English books of the period, suggest that, unless Thorpe was here forsaking the conventions that elsewhere governed his and his contemporaries' practice, scholars have been wrong about "the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets," wrong about "Mr. W. H.," and wrong about "our ever-living poet" and the "eternity" he "promised." But in this they are not alone. The original compositor also got something wrong. If the evidence of other Renaissance epistles is to be trusted, the mysterious and celebrated "Mr. W. H." is a misprint.
PMLA © 1987 Modern Language Association