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and others withheld me. I have tended more towards lagging behind than towards outstripping my own theoretic standard in this regard, acting very generally on the rule that a conjectural emendation should not be tolerated, unless it is either a stopgap expedient against a patent and formidable blunder, or else convincing in a very high degree indeed. Good or bad, many or few, my conjectural emendations are of course all set forth in the notes, and can be cancelled as errata by any reader who may consider them in that light.
The notes do not aim at being excursive, critical, or explanatory, nor to any large extent even illustrative. Such illustration as they supply is chiefly from Shelley's own writings : mainly, the notes profess to be textual, and no more. They specify all modifications of the text * which rest on my own authority, and a fair proportion even of those which depend upon MSS., or the safest editions. I have no fear of having specified too few minute points in these notes—too many, rather.
I have expressed, and must here repeat, my obligations to Mr. Garnett, who, waiving all rights of priority and personal research, has freely imparted to me whatever Shelleyan items he had at command, whether MSS., transcripts, or details of any kind elucidating the text of the poems; including the book containing Charles I., for permission to use which I am indeed primarily indebted, through Mr. Garnett, to the owner, Sir Percy Shelley. It is a gratification to acknowledge also valuable advice or assistance from Captain Trelawny, Mr. Browning, Mr. W. Bell Scott, Mr. Swinburne, Mr. Allingham, Mr. C. B. Cayley, Mr. G. S. D. Murray, my brother, and others. Captain Trelawny's information has been especially valuable both for the poems and for the memoir, and commands my most respectful and grateful thanks.
No man is better qualified than a re-editor of Shelley to affirm that authors, editors, and printers, are all fallible. To flatter myself that the present edition is free from errors of purpose on my part, or from casual oversights, would be the height of folly,
* Not including, however, small changes of punctuation which make no marked difference of meaning; nor changes of spelling or printing, such as wrapped" instead of "wrapt," or "linked" instead of " linked.” In these respects I have (properly speaking systematized rather than altered. VOL. I,
and would be my best title to detraction. But I can say that the editorial work has been to me a true labour of love, and has been gone through diligently and deliberately. Indeed, the pleasure of having anything to do with Shelley's poems is to myself so great that I should have been my own tormentor had I stinted or slurred work in any particular.
W. M. ROSSETTI.
PREFACE BY MRS. SHELLEY TO
FIRST COLLECTED EDITION, 1839.
OBSTACLES have long existed to my presenting the public with a perfect edition of Shelley's Poems. These being at last happily removed, I hasten to fulfil an important duty,—that of giving the productions of a sublime genius to the world, with all the correctness possible, and of, at the same time, detailing the history of those productions, as they sprang, living and warm, from his heart and brain. I abstain from any remark on the occurrences of his private life, except inasmuch as the passions which they engendered inspired his poetry. This is not the time to relate the truth ; and I should reject any colouring of the truth. No account of these events has ever been given at all approaching reality in their details, either as regards himself or others; nor shall I further allude to them than to remark that the errors of action committed by a man as noble and generous as Shelley may, as far as he only is concerned, be fearlessly avowed by those who loved him, in the firm conviction that
, were they judged impartially, his character would stand in fairer and brighter light than that of any contemporary. Whatever faults he had ought to find extenuation among his fellows, since they proved him to be human ; without them, the exalted nature of his soul would have raised him into something divine.
The qualities that struck any one newly introduced to Shelley Were -- First, a gentle and cordial goodness that animated his intercourse with warm affection and helpful sympathy. The other, the eagerness and ardour with which he was attached to the cause of human happiness and improvement; and the fervent eloquence with which he discussed such subjects. His conversation was marked by its happy abundance, and the beautiful language in which he clothed his poetic ideas and philosophical notions. To defecate life of its misery and its evil was the ruling passion of his soul : he dedicated to it every power of his mind, every pulsation of his heart. He looked on political freedom as the direct agent to effect the happiness of mankind; and thus any new-sprung hope of liberty inspired a joy and an exultation more intense and wild than he could have felt for any personal advantage. Those who have never experienced the workings of passion on general and unselfish subjects cannot understand this ; and it must be difficult of comprehension to the younger generation rising around, since they cannot remember the scorn and hatred with which the partisans of reform were regarded some few years ago, nor the persecutions to which they were exposed. He had been from youth the victim of the state of feeling inspired by the reaction of the French Revolution; and believing firmly in the justice and excellence of his views, it cannot be wondered that a nature as sensitive, as impetuous, and as generous, as his, should put its whole force into the attempt to alleviate for others the evils of those systems from which he had himself suffered. Many advantages attended his birth ; he spurned them all when balanced with what he considered his duties. He was generous to imprudence, devoted to heroism.
These characteristics breathe throughout his poetry. The struggle for human weal; the resolution firm to martyrdom ; the impetuous pursuit, the glad triumph in good; the determination not to despair ;-such were the features that marked those of his works which he regarded with most complacency, as sustained by a lofty subject and useful aim.
In addition to these, his poems may be divided into two classes,-the purely imaginative, and those which sprang from the emotions of his heart. Among the former may be classed The Witch of Atlas, Adonais, and his latest composition, left imperfect, The Triumph of Life. In the first of these particularly, he gave the reins to his fancy, and luxuriated in every idea as it rose; in all, there is that sense of mystery which formed an essential portion of his perception of life-a clinging to the subtler inner spirit, rather than to the outward form-a curious and metaphysical anatomy of human passion and perception.
The second class is, of course, the more popular, as appealing at once to emotions common to us all. Some of these rest on the passion of love; others on grief and despondency; others on the sentiments inspired by natural objects. Shelley's conception of love was exalted, absorbing, allied to all that is purest and noblest in our nature, and warmed by earnest passion ; such it appears when he gave it a voice in verse. Yet he was usually averse to expressing these feelings, except when highly idealized; and many of his more beautiful effusions he had cast aside unfinished, and they were never seen by me till after I had lost him. Others, as for instance Rosalind and Helen and Lines written among the Euganean Hills, I found among his papers by chance; and with some difficulty urged him to complete them. There are others, such as the Ode to the Skylark and The Cloud, which, in the opinion of many critics, bear a purer poetical stamp than any other of his productions. They were written as his mind prompted : listening to the carolling of the bird, aloft in the azure sky of Italy; or marking the cloud as it sped across the heavens, while he floated in his boat on the Thames.
No poet was ever warmed by a more genuine and unforced inspiration. His extreme sensibility gave the intensity of passion to his intellectual pursuits; and rendered his mind keenly alive to every perception of outward objects, as well as to his internal sensations. Such a gift is, among the sad vicissitudes of human life, the disappointments we meet, and the galling sense of our own mistakes and errors, fraught with pain ; to escape from such, he delivered up his soul to poetry, and felt happy when he sheltered himself from the influence of human sympathies, in the wildest regions of fancy. His imagination has been termed too brilliant, his thoughts too subtle. He loved to idealize reality; and this is a taste shared by few. We are willing to have our passing whims exalted into passions, for this gratifies our vanity; but few of us understand or sympathize with the endeavour to ally the love of abstract beauty, and adoration of abstract good, the td áralöv kai to kaldy of the Socratic philosophers, with our sympathies with our kind. In