20 JANUARY 1950, Page 18

Shakespeare's Sonnets Dated

SIR,—Mr. Leslie .Hotson's book, recently published, argues that Shakespeare's " mortal moon " sonnet deals with the Armada, that its date, therefore, is 1588, and that at least a number of the sonnets were written before " Venus and Adonis." May I draw attention to the fact that these conclusions were arrived at by Samuel Butler in his book on the• sonnets, published in 1899. Here are only a few passages: Of sonnet 2 Butler wrote: "This sonnet could only have been written by one who was still very young. I should say that 21 would be quite old enough for him. I therefore tentatively date this sonnet and I assume also sonnet 1 as written in 1585." "Shakespeare had not yet begun to write plays nor yet poems other than these sonnets." And Butler dated sonnet 77 in 1585-6. " It is impossible to believe that sonnet 96 could have been written by one who had even begun to write ' Venus and Adonis' and 'Lucrece.' Dealing with sonnet 107 Butler wrote: " Nothing short of a foreboding that England's name and place among the nations had been in great jeopardy is large enough for the event that looms behind the words . . I shall give my reasons for thinking that the defeat of the Spanish Armada is the event referred to in these lines."

—Yours faithfully, R. F. RATTRAY. 28 Queen Edith's Way. Cambridge.