SPENSER, Edmund. Complaints. Containing Sundrie Small Poemes of the World's Vanitie. (FIRST EDITION - 1591 - ONCE ACCEPTED AS BEING THE EARLIEST REFERENCE TO SHAKESPEARE)
AUTHOR: SPENSER, Edmund
TITLE: Complaints. Containing Sundrie Small Poemes of the World's Vanitie.
PUBLISHER: London: for William Ponsonbie, 1591.
DESCRIPTION: FIRST EDITION. 1 vol., 170mm x 121mm, A-Z3, lacking final blank enleaf Z4 otherwise complete, descriptive title-pages each with woodcut borders, expert skillful paper repairs to the blank foredge of the title-page and pages E1, L1, & T1 and lower corner of A2 not affecting text, with the Kent designed book plate of Robert J. Hamershlag. Bound in full brown morocco, ribbed gilt decorated spine, covers ruled and paneled in an elaborate floral design, gilt dentelles, all edges gilt, by Riviere & Son, housed in a fleece lined chemise and an open ended slipcase.
REFERENCE: STC 23078; ESTC S111266; Pforzheimer 968.
The following lines, published in Shakespeare's 28th year, form a part of a lamentation over perversions of public taste:
"All these, and all that els the Comick Stage....
Are now despized and made a laughing game.
And he the man whom nature self had made
To mock herself, and truth to imitate
With kindly counter under mimick shade,
Our pleasant Willy, ah, is dead of late:
With whom all joy and jolly merriment
Is also dreaded and in dolour drent."
--"The Teares of the Muses" p.8
The reference was once accepted to be the earliest notice by name of the immortal bard. It is now believed that "Willy" is Spenser's friend Sidney.
According to Charles Wisner Barrell "New Milestone in Shakespeare Research" - "Nicholas Rowe states that John Dryden held that Spenser had Shakespeare in mind in describing "Pleasant Willy. - So while Dryden (as well as Edmund Malone) was unquestionably correct in believing that Spenser's "'pleasant Willy" pictures the true Bard, the circumstance should be noted that this identification automatically debars the alleged genius of Stratford as the person intended on the score of age alone... Spenser carefully describes "Willy" as a highly cultured aristocrat, scorning the boldness of such baseborn men"
The Folger Library states that "the first definite mention of Shakespeare is in 1592 as an established London actor and playwright, mocked by a contemporary as a "Shake-scene."