Fall 1956 • Vol. XVIII No. 4 Book ReviewsOctober 1, 1956 |

Past Reason Hunted

The Mutual Flame: On Shakespeare's Sonnets and The Phoenix and the Turtle by G. Wilson Knight. Macmillan. $3.75. The critical literature on Shakespeare's Sonnets is scandalous. They were largely neglected by editors and poets alike until the 19th Century; by 1840, after less than a decade of largely unconsidered interest, they were becoming almost irretrievable as poems. The trivial fact that they were written in the first person caused more than a century of opinion to follow, blindly and literally, Wordsworth's suggestion that "with this key/Shakespeare unlocked his heart," a metaphor that should have remained as harmless as it was well-intentioned. But "heart" and "key" proved too tempting to the weak flesh of romantic criticism and wissenschaft respectively. They fell, and their heirs have nearly succeeded in making the Sonnets inaccessible to modern readers. Tradition has wrenched the specter of Biography from any useful corner that it might have occupied and placed it betw

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John Hollander was the author of numerous books of poetry. His first, A Crackling of Thorns, was chosen by W.H. Auden as the 1958 volume in the Yale Series of Younger Poets. He also wrote criticism, including the award-winning Rhyme's Reason: A Guide to English Verse and The Work of Poetry, and edited or coedited twenty-two collections, among them The Oxford Anthology of English Literature, and American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century. Before his death in August, 2013 he was Sterling Professor emeritus of English at Yale University.

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The Mutual Flame: On Shakespeare's Sonnets and The Phoenix and the Turtle by G. Wilson Knight. Macmillan. $3.75. The critical literature on Shakespeare's Sonnets is scandalous. They were largely neglected […]

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The Mutual Flame: On Shakespeare's Sonnets and The Phoenix and the Turtle by G. Wilson Knight. Macmillan. $3.75. The critical literature on Shakespeare's Sonnets is scandalous. They were largely neglected […]

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