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many kinds, he was at all times capable of committing, and incapable of avoiding, slips of grammar and syntax-slips which may indeed be called small, but which are not the less gross—and other oversights, such as rhymes left unsupplied, or nullified by writing the wrong word. In another sense, however, he was not a careless writer. Though no poetry bears a more visible stamp of inspiration, his MSS. show that this inspiration did not subside at once into its true and final verbal medium. The false starts, cancellings, blottings, and re-writings, which his first drafts exhibit, are a surprising and bewildering phenomenon. At length one comes upon the right reading
“Pinnacled dim in the intense inane."
Casualty also played a considerable part in the mischances of Shelley's printed works. Thus Queen Mab was only privately printed, and then piratically published ; the Revolt of Islam is a slightly modified re-issue of a withdrawn book; Epipsychidion, Hellas, and the volumes containing Rosalind and Helen and Prometheus Unbound, were printed in England while the poet lived in Italy, and without his having any proofs to revise ; Edipus Tyrannus was printed under similar circumstances, and immediately suppressed ; The Cenci and Adonais had the minor misfortune of being first printed in alien Italy, though under the author's own eye; Julian and Maddalo, the Witch of Atlas, and a number of shorter poems, were posthumous publications; the Triumph of Life remains a stately fragment amid many minor debris.
Mrs. Shelley brought deep affection and unmeasured enthusiasm to the task of editing her husband's works. But ill health and the pain of reminiscence curtailed her editorial labours : besides which, to judge from the result, you would say that Mrs. Shelley was not one of the persons to whom the gift of consistent accuracy has been imparted; for even this too is a gift in its way, not wholly to be improvised for the occasion.
In preparing the present edition for the press, I have been enabled to collate the collected edition supervised by Mrs. Shelley (in its three current forms of publication) with the original printed texts of all the poems, save only the semiprivate first Epipsychidion. I have also, through the liberality of Mr. Garnett, received various snatches of verse, mostly fragmentary, hitherto not printed in any form ; and have had the privilege of deciphering for myself a MS. book of Shelley, belonging to his son, and containing very considerable additions to the unfinished tragedy of Charles the First. Of the principal poems (or the great majority of them) the MSS., I understand, are not now known to exist.
I have innovated to some extent upon Mrs. Shelley's distribution of the poems; thinking it more reasonable that works of substantial length, such as Rosalind and Helen, Julian and Maddalo, and Epipsychidion, should appear among the longer poems, instead of among the miscellaneous poems of their respective years. On the other hand, I have placed among fragments a good number of pieces which really are fragmentary, but which had hitherto been intermixed with the complete compositions. I have also, in all subdivisions, carried out more minutely the record of dates, and (save as concerns the translations) the sorting of the poems according to that criterion. A glance at the table of contents will show the reader what these subdivisions are, - Principal Poems, Miscellaneous Poems, Fragments, Translations, and Appendix, as well as the dates of the several works. These are the dates of composition, not necessarily of first publication.
The Appendix is a feature new to any edition of Shelley. It contains a number of his juvenile writings extracted from divers sources, some variations of the printed text of the poems, and other odds and ends. Anything that I have found of an earlier date than 1813, when Queen Mab was printed, I treat as a juvenile poem. I must here avow and premise, for the use of all gainsayers, that I regard the main body of these juvenile poems as being not only poorish sort of stuff, but absolute and heinous rubbish; the “clotted nonsense” of a boy in whom even an acute literary prophet would have failed to divine, as in any wise conceivable, the author of Alastor at twenty-three years of age, of Prometheus Unbound at twenty-seven, and of a most glorious and in some respects unexampled body of poetry accruing up to that dark day of July when the inexorable waves of the Mediterranean closed over a brain and a life still below the rounded manhood of thirty. “Why, then,” it may pertinently be asked, “give ampler publicity to all this vile stuff, capable only of derogating from that typical Shelley created for the homage of continents and of centuries ?” I answer: Because it interests me as being Shelley's, and ought in my opinion to interest everybody to whom the later developments of that astonishing mind are dear. To find that Pope, whose manhood produced the Satires, had in boyhood the capacity which goes to the Ode on Solitude, is interesting, -and that apart from the merit which these juvenile verses possess;—to find that Shelley, whose manhood produced The Cenci and the Witch of Atlas, had in boyhood the incapacity which babbles in the poems of St Irvyne, is also and indeed equally interesting. At twentythree, Shelley as author of Alastor is an unusually mature youthful poet ; even at twenty, as author of Queen Mab, his powers have attained an exceptional ascendant in a certain direction : but at seventeen or eighteen his poetic product is rant and resonance, twaddle and tinsel. Surely this is a fact which may be subjected to some more appropriate treatment than mere hiding out of sight. Such at least is my own sentiment on the subject ; and, knowing myself to be not wanting in enthusiasm and reverence for Shelley, I feel justified in acting according to it. I might indeed have felt some hesitation in dragging out into the light of scorn immature writings totally unpublished as yet; but, as a matter of fact, few such have been at my disposal. Six juvenile productions, hitherto unprinted, do, however, appear in the Appendix. Another (written probably in 1811) is in the possession of Mr. Frederick Locker, who obligingly communicated it to me; and this is a very curious scrap, not wanting in verve and piquancy, but too un. pleasant, in its tone regarding family matters, to see the light of publication. Substantially, therefore, I have simply reproduced, in connexion with Shelley's standard works, those earlier failures which already exist elsewhere in print.
Besides this Appendix, a certain number of pieces, either wholly unprinted till now, or else not printed among the works of Shelley, distinguish the present edition from all predeces
sors.* No omission from any writing whatever, I need hardly say, has been made on any ground of assumed "propriety," moral or religious. As Shelley did not write, so neither do I revise, for babes and sucklings.
The question how a re-editor should treat the works of a great poet, when confessedly inaccurate in some respects, is of the highest importance. I shall not debate the various sides of the question, for there will be plenty of people to show that the modes of treatment which I have not adopted are severally right ; I therefore confine myself to saying what I have done, and briefly why. I have considered it my clear duty and prerogative to set absolutely wrong grammar right; as thus
“Thou too, O Comet, beautiful and fierce,
Who drew'st (drew) the heart of this frail universe ;"
and to set absolutely wrong rhyming right; as thus
“Beneath whose spires which swayed in the red flame slight]
Reclining as they ate, of liberty,
Earth's children did a woof of happy converse frame" ; and to set absolutely wrong metre right; as thus
“This plan might be tried too. Where's General
Laoctonos ? It is my royal pleasure,"
* The reader may like to see here the exact list of these pieces. They are as
[Introduced from printed sources] Lines written in the Bay of Lerici ; To Thy dewy looks sink in my breast) ; Scene from Tasso ; Orpheus; To his Genius ; Fiordispina (a portion); Love, Hope, Desire, and Fear ; Prologue to Hellas; Sonnet to Byron ; Fragments of an Unfinished Drama (a portion); Lines (We meet not as He parted); Homer's Hymn to Venus; First Canzone of the Convito; Matilda gathering Flowers ; Fragments 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 21, 22, 28, 29, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, $5, 64, 96. (Hitherto unprinted] Lines (If I walk in autumn's even); Marenghi (the majority); Lines written for Miss Sophia Stacey; Time Long Past ; The Boat on the Serchio (a portion); Fragments of an Unfinished Drama (a portion); Charles I. the majority); Fragments 9, 23, 24, 25, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 87, 88, 89, 90; From Virgil, the Tenth Eclogue.
In the Appendix, only two items come from the collected editions–Singing, and the variation from Prometheus Unbound. Eleven items had never been printed—The Solitary; To Mary, who died in this Opinion ; Mother and Son; The Mexican Revolution: To Ireland ; To
- O thou); Eyes; a Hate Song; the second version of the Epithalamium; and the omitted lines from the Indian Serenade, and the Recollection. All the residue is from outlying printed sources.
Where's General Laoctonos ?
“ This plan might be tried too.
It is my royal pleasure." Annexed to this is another duty, that of pointing out any and every such change ; this is done in my notes. In speaking of “absolutely wrong” grammar, rhyming, and metre, I by no means include a vast number of laxities in these matters— laxities which are a genuine portion of Shelley's poetic intention and performance, and which it would be presumption in me so much as to censure.
These are of course left untouched ; and along with them not a few things which, though in strictness even absolutely wrong, may also be fairly understood to appear as Shelley meant them to appear, or as he would not have troubled himself to prevent their appearing. I have made it a point to follow the readings of the original editions, unless some strong presumption should arise that these readings are erroneous, and those of subsequent editions correct. Some instances occur in which I have felt quite uncertain which was correct among different readings, and then I have chosen the one I myself prefer. I have also with scrupulous exactness attended to the punctuation of every line ; and (a minor yet not wholly unimportant point) have made the marginal setting of type throughout the volumes such as to represent the true interrelations of rhythm and rhyme-a matter left hitherto at sixes and sevens. The interruption of foot-notes in a page of fine poetry is, I conceive, always some sort of annoyance ; and even the numbers or other marks in the text calling attention to notes at a later page come under the same disfavour. Convenient they assuredly are to the tiro or the student : as certainly are they tiresome to the expert. On the whole, it has appeared to me best to remove all notes from the foot of the page to the end of the poem or subdivision, and to give no figures or marks of reference. My own notes come in mass at the end of the respective volumes.
As to conjectural emendation—that most dangerous and lethal weapon, but still, I apprehend, a lawful and needful weapon in the hands of a re-editor-I am well aware that I shall have offended some readers, and perhaps disappointed others. Among friends of high critical qualifications whom I have consulted, some have urged me onwards in the path of emendation,