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Dænion of the World—which I was enabled to complete from the copy mentioned in Medwin's and Middleton's Lives of Shelley. And there are other instances in which studies and cancelled passages of importance are retained as a portion of the text of Shelley's poetry, albeit including lines and expressions which occur in the finished forms.
To produce in the case of Shelley as near an approximation as may be to the text that the poet intended to issue, is a more than ordinarily difficult task,—not from any lack of materials, for the mass of material extant is astonishing when we consider the vicissitudes to which his works have been subjected. The difficulty is in deciding what shall be the authority for the text in each particular poem. In respect of books seen through the press by himself, there ought to be no difficulty whatever, except as regards isolated words and stops ; but unfortunately he did not revise while at press one half of the entire bulk of his poetry, several of the volumes having been printed in England while he was abroad, and read through the press by friends. The proportion of his mature works, from Alastor onwards, which had the advantage of his personal revision when in type, would, I think, be liberally estimated at one third; and the largest of the volumes seen through the press by himself is infamously printed. Generally speaking, however, where there is no manuscript extant, the text as printed in Shelley's life-time must be accepted as the nearest obtainable approach to an authority; and even when there is a manuscript extant, it is by no means a final authority as a matter of course. The relative value of a poem as printed in Shelley's life-time and as written out by him must depend not only upon the revision of ihe press by the author or his substitute, but upon the technical quality of the printer's work, and the amount of care bestowed upon the manuscript. If the printed version is obviously a careless piece of typography, it loses much of its authority even though seen through the press by Shelley himself. This is preeminently the case with Laon and Cythina; and the extant manuscript fragments tend to shew that the printer had not one of Shelley's best manuscripts to work from. Alastor, on the contrary, seems to me a very creditable piece of printer's work, on the whole; and, if a manuscript of that volume were discovered, I should not expect it to authorize
more than two important verbal alterations. The Rosalind and Helen volume, again, of which proof sheets were certainly not seen by Shelley, is inferior to the Alastor volume as an authority; but probably the manuscript of the eclogue itself would be found very liasty and inconsistent in the matters of detail in which alone the printed text is suspicious to any great extent.
These three instances are merely typical of the kind of consideration applicable to every one of Shelley's volumes; and to reprint his published series just as they stand, without correcting palpable errors, would thus be an inadequate attempt to approach the genuine text.
I have therefore not scrupled to remove many small blemishes of three classes, (1) those for which the printer is clearly responsible, (2) those for which Shelley may be responsible, hnt would certainly have removed if he had observed them, and (3) those for which Shelley's substitute for the time being is probably responsible. No alteration has been made unless I have felt sure the original was not what Shelley meant it to be, or would have wished it to be; and, I may almost add, unless it has been perfectly obvious what change should be made. Conjecture has Do part nor lot in the matter.
It is easy enough to go on the assumption that everything in a text is right, and reprint it in fac-simile ; and is not much less easy to go on the opposite assumption that everything a little out of one's ordinary experience is wrong, and alter it forth with. But the difficulty, with such texts as Shelley's, is to discriminate between unintentional inaccuracies in printing or writing and intentional eccentricities of style, metre, punctuation, and orthography. In my opinion the least correct of all the volumes published by Shelley during his life-time is very far pleasanter to read, and very much nearer the fact of his intention, than any of the posthumous texts published up to the year 1876. The chief reason of this I take to be a want of veneration on the part of his editors,-a failure to perceive that Shelley's eccentricities, even his errors if errors there be, must be far more interesting to intelligent humanity at large than any punctilious correctness not Shelley's. Even if the aggregate genius of the present generation were brought to bear upon the task of systematizing Shelley's style aud grammar and so on, we might perhaps not obtain any,
thing comparable to the real Shelley; and I conceive it to be a good service to his memory to restore in every instance what he wrote or meant to write. I have therefore adopted as a principle, that it is better to leave unchanged any doubtful passage, about which there may be several opinions, and which is not, as matter of certainty, corrupt.
Corrupt as nearly all the posthumous texts of Shelley certainly are, the course of my studies has led me to think that the original editions are not nearly so corrupt as they are generally said to be, or as might be expected, and also that much has been called corrupt which is really nothing but elliptical, or unusual in point of grammar, of construction, of orthography, or of punctuation. Sufficient allowance has not been made for unusual features of Shelley's work which were deliberate, or which he would have seen no reason, as far as we can judge, for altering. To take as an example a single curious instance of seeming inconsistency, I would draw attention to his use of the interjection 0 or Oh. Throughout his works 0 and Oh are used interchangeably without any apparent rule; and, more than this, they are sometimes followed by a comma, sometimes by no stop at all, sometimes by a note of exclamation. To me it appears most objectionable to interfere with this irregularity. Whatever Shelley's view on this small but important word may have been, I do not presume to think he unerringly carried out that view in writing; but O is so constantly used within a line or two of Oh, that I cannot think he would have left so many of these divergences of practice had they been wholly unintentional. Of the half-dozen different ways of using the two forms of interjection, no two, if minutely considered, are of precisely the same metric value; and it is hardly fantastic to suppose that a slightly different intonation or stress is indicated by these slightly different interjections, though Shelley may have been wholly unconscious of any intention in the matter, and have simply written in each case what seemed to convey the weight of thought and word his mind was uttering.
The bearing on metric effect of what at first sight may appear to be mere slovenlinesses of grammar, orthography, and punctuation, is not easy to estimate in the case of so subtle a master of Diusic as Shelley : I suspect his punctuation often depended more
on euphony than on grammar; and it must always be intrinsically safer to leave the text as it is in these minute particulars than to tamper with it, unless there be a strong presumption that it has become corrupt since it left his hands. At all events, not only has this seemed to me safer and more in accordance with editorial obligations ; but I have even thought it well worth while to preserve in the present text so much of the minute history of Shelley's mind as is unfolded to us in the peculiarities and inconsistencies of his orthography &c.,-at least when it has seemed likely that the orthography &c. were his, and deliberately adopted. But here again there are difficulties ; for occasionally we come upon divergences of practice for which there is double and conflicting authority. In such cases, if I find clear evidence of a certain rule recognized by Shelley, I do not hesitate to apply his rule in correction of the text even where there is some sort of manuscript authority against the change, -because very often the manuscript giving such authority is either hastily dashed off or seemingly immature, and the change such as the poet might reasonably be expected to have made when reading the proofsheets, or whenever he discovered the departure from his own
I have of course often left the punctuation or orthography of the text as I found it, even in cases where I have not been convinced of its being precisely as Shelley left it, but where the matter was of very little importance, and could not possibly be decided.
In the first volume of the present edition Shelley's various mature poetic issues are reprinted in chronological order, with the exact titles which he gave them, the dedications, mottoes, &c., and with the original arrangement of contents preserved. This plan seems to me to afford a marked artistic advantage. There is a decided interest in knowing precisely what Shelley thought appropriate as minor poems to append to his larger ones; and although this knowledge might of course be afforded even in a rearranged edition, still the effect must be lost in such an edition. That effect in such an instance as that of the poems issued with Prometheus Unbound, is simply magical. Never since the age dominated by the genius of Æschylus was anything of like lyric exaltation produced in dramatic literature; and never, perhaps.
there been any human soul that “panted forth a flood of rapture so divine ” as that incomparable group of lyrics which follow the incomparable fourth act of Prometheus, --still sounding in diverse echoing keys and under infinite variations of melody the sanie intense intellectual passion, the same most holy love of humanity, the same godlike perception of ideal beauty. A "flood of rapture still more divine remained to crown the work of the master in Epipsychidion, and a still more certain grasp on the combined resources of the lyric and dramatic crafts was yet to be shewn in Hellas,-the one put forth by itself, the other with a single lyric of astonishing fitness; but the fact remains that the selection and arrangement of lyrics to accompany Prometheus was a thing unequalled in perceptiveness ; and in that case, at all events, the highest importance is to be attached to the preservation of Shelley's order among these lesser poems,-lesser only than greater things of his own, and greater than anything lyric to be found elsewhere in modern literature. At the same time I have not hesitated to interpolate, between the poems published with Alastor and Shelley's next published poem Mont Blanc, the recently discovered Second Part of The Dæmon of the World— so as to place the two parts of that redaction in sequence and leave the poem to be conveniently apprehended as a whole. To the mass of posthumous poems, translations, and juvenilia, no rigid principle of reproduction could be usefully applied; here an editor has a larger option ; but of one thing I am convinced, that all distinctly immature work should form a separate chronology ending with Queen Mab. Shelley lived to protest against its being published at all; but, as it has now become an inalienable part of the world's possessions, all we can do out of respect to liis memory is to assign to it the position which he assigned, that of a juvenile work—albeit the book has had a more decided career than perhaps any other poem of striking immaturity in our literature,
It has seemed to me that the best plan for the arrangement of the rest of Shelley's poetry is to follow up the series of mature works published in his life-time, with the principal posthumous poems produced contemporaneously with that series ; to place