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An ambiguous dedication

Translation...

TO . THE . ONLY . BEGETTER . OF.
THESE . ENSUING . SONNETS.
Mr. W . H . ALL . HAPPINESSE.
AND . THAT . ETERNITIE.
PROMISED.
BY .
OUR . EVERLIVING . POET.
WISHETH.
THE . WELL-WISHING.
ADVENTURER . IN.
SETTING.
FORTH.

T. T.

The main candidates for "Mr. W. H." are:

One way to clear away complicated speculation is to make the simple assumption that there is indeed a misprint in the dedication, and that it is "Mr W. S." --William Shakespeare--who is after all the "onlie begetter," or creator, of the sonnets; the word "begetter" in dedications of the period always refers to the author, rather than the source of inspiration*. Then again, this theory would do away with all of the entertaining speculation.

Footnotes

  1. Begetters and typographical errors

    An article by Donald Foster, who has developed a powerful computer database of Shakespeare's language, Shaxicon, establishes the conventional use of the word "begetter" in the period, and argues that "W. H." is a misprint: see Shakespeare Survey, 1987.