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ILLUSTRATIONS TO VOL. I.
PORTRAIT OF SHELLEY BY MISS CURRAN .
SHELLEY'S HOUSE AT MARLOW
FAC-SIMILE OF PAGE 180 OF SHELLEY'S REVISED
COPY OF LAON AND CYTHNA
Opposite page 101
Opposite page 393
BY THE EDITOR.
THE main object of this edition of the Poetical Works of Shelley is to put within the reach of students and the public generally as near an approximation as may be to the text that the poet intended to issue. This is a more than ordinarily difficult task,—and not from any lack of materials, for there is a mass of material extant, astonishing when we consider the vicissitudes to which Shelley's works were subjected while he was alive and for some time after his death. 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. As regards the proportion of his mature works, from Alastor onwards, which had the advantage of his personal revision when in type, we should, I think, be making a liberal allowance if we assumed that he saw proofs of 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 lifetime and as written out by him must depend not only upon the revision of the 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 if seen through the press by Shelley himself. This is preeminently the case with Laon and Cythna; 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 us in 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 hasty 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 the series of volumes published by and for him 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 I think the printer responsible, (2) those for which I think it likely Shelley is responsible, but would have removed if he had observed them, and (3) those for which I think Shelley's substitute for the time being responsible. Every alteration has been made simply because I have thought the original was not what Shelley meant it to be, or would have wished it to be; and every alteration is specified, as far as I am aware, and unless there be accidental errors of the press in getting this edition into type.
In one small matter, that of Latin, Greek, and Italian quotations, I have not sought to bring any scholastic interference to bear on what I have thought was deliberately written by Shelley: what have seemed to be printers' errors in these quotations, I have specified and removed; but in other cases I have not thought it worth while to supply or correct accents and so on; because, under my own regulation, I could not do so without a note, and notes would be perhaps still more of an affliction there than elsewhere. Besides, those who know more of the grammar of foreign tongues than Shelley did will not be misled, those who know less will not be annoyed.
It is easy enough to go on the assumption that every