'The Lampless Deep': Criss-Crossing Strains in Current Romantic CriticismJerome McGann, The Poetics of Sensibility: A Revolution in Literary Style. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. ISBN: 0 19 818370 4 (hb). Price: £30.00 (hb)Stephen Bygrave (ed.), Romantic Writings. London: Routledge in association with the Open University, 1996. ISBN: 0 145 13577 X (hb); 0 415 13578 8 (pb). Price: £45 (hb); £12.99 (pb)Susan J. Wolfson and Peter J. Manning, eds. Lord Byron: Selected Poems. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996. ISBN: 0 14 042381 8. Price: £7.99Ted Hughes, ed. and intro. A Choice of Coleridge's Verse. London: Faber and Faber, 1996. ISBN: 0 571 17604 6. Price: £7.99David Punter, ed. William Blake. New Casebooks. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996. ISBN: 0 333 54597 4 (pb). Price: £10.99 (pb)Nancy Moore Goslee, ed. 'The Homeric Hymns' and 'Prometheus' Drafts Notebook: Bodleian MS. Shelley adds. e. 12, vol. XVIII of The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996. ISBN: 0 8153 1153 2. Price: $160 (hb)
University of Durham
To review these books together is to gain a sense, admittedly ragged and provisional, of multiple, criss-crossing strains in current criticism of Romantic poetry. Especially in Jerome McGann's seeming volte-face in The Poetics of Sensibility and Ted Hughes's reading of Coleridge, there is heartening evidence that the grim-faced ban on imaginative pleasure - and danger - which has prevailed in recent years is beginning to lift. Nancy Goslee's impressive edition of one of Shelley's notebooks is also on the side of the angels since it brings us close to the process of poetic composition.
McGann's book builds on the recent explosion of interest in notions of sensibility and the sentimental, and on the allied study of women's poetry of the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. What intrigues is the plea for empathising reading made by a critic most famous for his warning against uncritical absorption in Romanticism's own self-representations. McGann is concerned by 'the tendency to approach all art, canonical or non-canonical, in rational - in theoretical and philosophical - terms' (p. 5). He offers a reminder of the 'need, in studying works of imagination, to resist' the 'mind's will to intellectual adequacy' (p. 9). Fine, but wasn't that what the canonical Romantics had been telling us all along, so potently, in fact, that McGann in a previous critical incarnation had felt obliged to issue warnings about the intellect-dulling spells woven by Romantic Ideology? The McGann writing The Poetics of Sensibility has, thankfully, recovered a passion for 'particular writers and particular texts' (p. 8), a passion evident only in queasily ambivalent ways in TheRomantic Ideology . Part 1 of the book discusses 'the ambiguity between mind and matter, art and nature that Locke's Essay [Concerning Human Understanding ] fosters' (p. 16). Lockean tensions between the materialistic and theistic, McGann asserts, vitalise poems such as Pope's Essay on Man , and are subtly investigated by Coleridge in 'The Eolian Harp', the subject of a few brilliant pages. McGann shows that a poem often thought of as muddled is actually able to communicate 'its sympathy with, and its critique of' the 'legacy of enlightenment culture of sensation and sensibility' (p. 23). It is for such compactly suggestive readings that the book is most valuable; such readings do not outlaw the philosophical or theoretical, but they acknowledge the aesthetic intelligence embodied in poems.
'Embodiment', in fact, emerges as a significant notion for the book. Part 1 also includes a chapter on Gray, on the way his great Elegy returns 'our awareness to primaries', thinking, by means of the 'discourse of sensibility' (p. 29), through what can be felt and touched. Similarly, Macpherson's Ossian is related to sentimentality and sensibility. For Macpherson, the former 'is taken as an effort to recover the lost paradise' (p. 34) of the latter, and McGann, in a fine phrase, discovers 'materialized mentality' informing 'the typical Ossianic landscape' (p. 35).
Part II considers the poetry of sensibility and Part III the poetry of sentiment, a partition based on the admittedly rough notion that 'sensibility emphasizes the mind in the body, sentimentality the body in the mind' (p. 7). Throughout, McGann seeks to alert us (rather as he did in his early book on Swinburne) to literary styles whose prevailing conventions we may have forgotten, or never learned, how to read. Central to the poetry of sensibility is the paradox of poets using words while being aware of 'the apparent inadequacy of language' (p. 43). An example, taken from Roger Lonsdale's Eighteenth-Centuy Women Poets , is the practice of the anonymous author ('The Amorous Lady') of 'On being Charged with Writing Incorrectly', where the word-play in 'Charged with' - to which McGann draws vivid attention - expresses the writer's double sense of marginality and power. Equally central to the poetry of sensibility, for McGann, is the difference between a 'performative' and an 'instructional' (p. 49) language. So the same author's 'To my Love', in which the speaker and addressee are imagined returning to their respective spouses, sets the speaker's language of sensibility against the addressee's (quoted) 'prudential language' (p. 48). McGann's reading is both performative and instructional, but I would contest the claim that the 'performative' is especially typical of the poetry of sensibility; some such notion underpins any account that regards the meaning of poetry as residing as much in the how as the what.
The remainder of Part II refines understanding of the styles and strategies of sensibility. McGann offers an account of Hannah More's Sensibility , with its sharp awareness of the way 'Affect is haunted by the demon of affectation' (p. 52). In keeping with a devote of sensibility, McGann assumes in his prose a quiveringly sensitive responsiveness. So he reads Ann Yearsley's tortuous style as involving the reader in her 'spiritual agon' (p. 59). In this chapter, as elsewhere, the reader may wonder whether McGann's sympathy is leading his aesthetic judgement astray; the problem with his critical approach is its all-or-nothing assertiveness. Either we rate highly the neglected poems he brings before us, or we prove ourselves unfit readers. Many readers, I imagine, will admire the critical performance more than a good number of the texts discussed.
McGann complicates our understanding of canonical Romanticism by showing it as formed in response to and reaction against the poetries of sensibility and sentimentality. He suggests, for example, that Coleridge's change of title from 'The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere' (1798) to 'The Ancient Mariner: A Poet's Reverie' (1800), a change reproved by Charles Lamb as 'subversive of all credit', 'is a move in the direction of Della Cruscan sentimentality' (p. 93). The Della Cruscans, for McGann, are characterised by their insistence on self-consciousness. He quotes the line 'For all it feign'd in us was realized' from William Parsons's 'The Story of Francesca ...' in support of this view, pointing to the double workings of 'in us' (see pp. 90-1). When he turns his attention to sentimental poetry McGann is also able to sketch inter-connections between his authors and poems and canonical Romantics. A chapter on Sir William Jones and Erasmus Darwin describes how both writers see the universe (and the poem) more as an 'energy' than a 'work'. The result is a poetry that eschews statement in favour of a 'rhetorical dance of its own terms' (p. 134), a poetry perfected by Shelley, McGann argues, in passages such as the 'Life of Life' lyric from Prometheus Unbound .
In this final Part McGann has much of interest to say about Felicia Hemans's complex response to Byron in 'The Lost Pleiad'. He is compelling, too, on the quintessentially sentimental, self-lacerating triumphs of Laetitia Landon's 'poetry of failure' (p. 164) It is arguable, however, that he overstates the bleakness of 'Lines of Life': of the final stanza, 'Let music make less terrible / The silence of the dead; / I care not, so my spirit last / Long after life has fled', he writes that 'Such writing does not offer any hope at all' (p. 168). This ignores the poet's stubborn hope that some future 'maiden' or 'youth' will read her work, that her fame will last. Landon is not quite so self-destructively indifferent to the impact of her work as McGann argues. Still, the chapters on Landon can be recommended for their inwardness and insight, especially about the poet's self-conscious involvement in a nexus of publishing and economic relations. In 'Literary History, Romanticism, and Felicia Hemans', which takes the form of an imagined dialogue between three speakers, it emerges that the book's project is less at odds with The Romantic Ideology than may have appeared to be the case. Here one speaker expresses the wish for 'a [literary] history at once more energetic and imaginative' (p. 180) than is currently available. There follows in partial illustration an ingenious but debatable account of Hemans's 'Homes of England' as worth our attention because of its awareness of 'stately homes' as 'only signifying systems' (p. 188). This awareness is shown through her supposedly subtle use of cliches. McGann seems untroubled that his recommendation that we read much forgotten verse of the period might merely sharpen our understanding of the nature of artistic mediocrity; but his book has the great virtue of demanding that the scholarly and polemical recovery of unread texts must be accompanied by aesthetic response and judgement.
Romantic Writings , edited by Stephen Bygrave, aims to introduce students to a range of recent ideas about Romanticism. Textbooks beget textbooks in the current Higher Education climate, and Bygrave's book constantly refers the student to Duncan Wu's Romanticism: An Anthology (1994). Bygrave's book is expertly arranged, putting to students a series of intelligent questions in the midst of discussions of salient themes and texts. For instance, Wordsworth's response in The Prelude to the news of Robespierre's death prompts the following: 'This response is put in a narrative context (where Wordsworth was and what he was doing when he heard the news). Why is this?' (p. 134). An intelligent answer follows. The book composes an impressive synthesis of recent historicist and materialist attitudes to Romanticism which will be of interest not only to undergraduates. There are good chapters on, among other things, 'Women Writers and Readers' (Susan Matthews), 'Women Poets 1780-1830' (Amanda Gilroy), 'Romantic Allegory' (Graham Allen), and 'Colonialism and the Exotic' (Nigel Leask). Part Two reprints essays, including Stuart Curran's important essay on women's poetry of the period, 'Romantic poetry: The "I" altered', Freud's 'The Uncanny', and Rene Wellek's 'The Concept of Romanticism in Literary History'. Wellek's essay, the last in the book, sounds a note at odds with the book's overall emphasis on diversity, context and history when he asserts his belief in 'the unity of the romantic movement' and remarks that 'political criteria seem grossly overrated as a basis for judging a man's basic view of the world and artistic allegiance' (p. 334). It is a pity that this challenge to the 'political' is not more fully explored in the main body of the book.
Bygrave and his fellow-authors believe that Romanticism is 'a term that is convenient rather than precise' (p. 9). They are alive to challenges to the canon posed by women's poetry. Amanda Gilroy offers a fine introduction to ways in which women's poetry in the period can be characterised, observing that for female authors such as Landon 'the question of poetic identity is bound up with the question of gender identity' (p. 193). However, some parts of Gilroy's discussion provoke the question whether the endeavour to establish a distinction between male and female poets on 'gender' grounds risks overlooking evident points of contact. I look forward to a time when the affinities between, say, Shelley and Landon are recognised as strongly as the dissimilarities; it is arguable that poets like Landon constructed versions of poetic identity that have much in common with those shaped by the canonical Romantics. Nigel Leask's account of 'Colonialism and the Exotic' is a helpful and judicious introduction to some exciting and complicated ideas, including a fascinating section on 'imperial bad conscience' in De Quincey (p. 245).
The book is clearly of its time in its suspicion of 'idealistic' elements in Romantic literature (which are redeemed, for the contributors, by being set in ironic or sceptical tension with non-idealistic elements). Blakean 'innocence' offers a critique of 'experience' only to the degree - in Bygrave's reading of 'The Chimney Sweeper' (Innocence) - that the speaker can be said to be 'locked in the "mind-forged manacles" we have already seen in "London"' (p. 32). But doesn't the poem pose the reader a more unsettling challenge than this reading concedes? Blake demands that we measure our liberal values against those of someone who is exploited and appears not to complain about exploitation. The poem prompts one to imagine what it at the same time suggests is hard to attain: a world in which the qualities of love and affection displayed by the speaker can be sustained without being exploited. Generally, however, Bygrave and his contributors are to be congratulated on a book that packs a lot in; what is unusual about it is its continual, if often implicit, invitation to the reader to enter into dialogue with its readings, showing affinities in this respect with the final chapter of The Poetics of Sensibility .
Much recent work on individual poets shows the influence of current attempts to re-conceive Romantic literature. McGann has done a great deal to re-establish Byron as a central figure of the period, though he is still a poet who can be conspicuous by his absence from discussions of Romanticism. One challenge to the reader of Byron is the way his career appears to divide into two halves: the 'Romantic' and the 'Satirical'. Susan Wolfson and Peter Manning exclude Don Juan from their excellent new edition on the grounds that Byron's comic masterpiece is available in a separate Penguin edition. Their edition includes the 'Romantic' author of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage , Manfred and the Turkish Tales, the wryly laid-back dramatist of Sardanapalus , the satirist of Beppo and The Vision of Judgment , and the lyrical poet of 'So, we'll go no more a roving', 'Stanzas to the Po,' 'On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year' and other poems.
The editors' notes are, as one would expect from two such fine critics, crisp, economical and insightful. Instead of supplying notes on individual lines and phrases, they give brief discussions of the background, major themes, and reception of the poems they include; they also give useful suggestions about further critical reading. Their discussions are always worthwhile; they point out, for instance, that Manfred 'transforms confession into myth' (p. 804) and evoked a mixed response from Francis Jeffrey. Jeffrey 'disapproved of the "painful and offensive" theme of incest, but saw the drama's "obscurity" as "part of its grandeur"' (p. 804). I was especially grateful for the succinctly laid-out 'rough scheme' (p. 790) of The Giaour 's complicated narrative or non-narrative. Readers requiring more extensive discussions are referred to McGann's seven-volume Oxford edition (see p. xi).
Wolfson and Manning base their text on the seventeen-volume edition of The Works of Lord Byron: With His letters and Journals, and His Life, by Thomas Moore , published by John Murray from 1832 to 1834. Moreover, they, like Murray, print Byron's notes 'on the same page as the poetic texts' (p. ix). This allows one to see more clearly the interplay between different versions of Byron's authorial selves: on the same page (the first of Childe Harold , Canto 1) the poet sets going a dissolute and glamorously tragic alter ego in the text and emerges as a knowledgeable traveller in the notes. The restless interaction in the poem between romance and reality, fantasy and fact, inwardness and history is thus mirrored in the very layout of the poem; it is a valuable aspect of Wolfson's and Manning's edition that they preserve this feature of the 1832-4 edition. More debatable is their decision to order the poems 'in the sequence of composition and/or initial publication' (p. ix). As a result, Childe Harold is strung across the edition, the first two Cantos separated from the third and the third, in turn, separated from the fourth. This decision allows one to chart the development of Byron's career. It is, for example, helpful to be reminded that Canto IV appeared after Beppo . But there is a price to be paid for sharpening our chronological awareness; that price is the possibility of reading the four Cantos as a single, if often self-fissuring, whole. Still, the edition will do much to encourage a wider recognition of Byron's achievement outside Don Juan. English Bards and Scotch Reviewers emerges as a work of considerable vigour and force in this context, and reminds us how involved Byron was from the start of his career with the mechanics of opinion-forming and literary advancement. This involvement was not lost on Shelley, who in Adonais describes pointedly the impact of Byron's poem: 'The spoilers tempt no second blow, / They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them lying low' (251-2).
Coleridge makes an inglorious appearance in Byron's satire as 'The bard who soars to elegise an ass' (262), a dig at his 'Lines to a Young Ass'. That this was not Byron's most thoughtful response to Coleridge is shown by the fact that 'Kubla Khan', according to Coleridge's prefatory note, 'is here published at the request of a poet of great and deserved celebrity' who was, of course, Byron. In his brilliant Introduction to a choice of Coleridge's poetry, Ted Hughes writes that the line 'woman wailing for her demon lover' 'bowled Byron over' (p. 21). It is difficult not be bowled over by Hughes's own remarkable essay on Coleridge. His edition - a driven 'choice' rather than a more casual 'selection' - focuses intensely on the three great poems which, for Hughes, as for many readers, are at the heart of Coleridge's poetic achievement and, more generally, of Romanticism: 'Kubla Khan', 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', and 'Christabel'. With much recourse to Old Norse mythology and a quasi-archetypalist view of the workings of image and symbol, Hughes represents Coleridge as fighting a losing battle between a 'Christian Self' and the 'unleavened Self ' of which, with some distress, the Romantic poet wrote in later years. It is this 'unleavened Self' whose energies are tapped in the three visionary poems, poems in which the claims of conscience and orthodoxy are intermittently held in abeyance. Hughes interprets Coleridge's career as a self-torturing flight from the possibility of psychic wholeness, a wholeness achievable only through surrender to the unleavened self. Calling to this self is a 'Female' figure: the wailing woman, the Nightmare Life-in-Death, and Geraldine hypnotically emerging as the 'lord' of his 'utterance'. Yet Coleridge usually seeks to resist this 'call', blocking it out through religious orthodoxy and its associated 'Babel of intellectual tongues' (p. 73). Poems such as 'Dejection: An Ode', on this reading, are best understood as 'braced against [the Female's] absence' (p. 73). Even in the three visionary poems, Coleridge attempts, from time to time, to refuse the vision of 'ultimate reality' (p. 73) brought by the Female. So, at the end of 'Kubla Khan' the poet's 'Christian Self reels back in horror' (p. 34), warning 'Beware! Beware!', after the Unleavened Self's ecstatic imagining of 'That sunny dome! those caves of ice!'
This may sound melodramatic. But Hughes reads with such clarity and passion, and is able to demonstrate so convincingly the animating life of Coleridge's imagery, that his version of the poet's career makes for an unusually gripping critical drama. Among the incidental insights thrown up is the reading of 'The Ballade of the Dark Ladie' as re-using the symbolic language of the visionary poems; though, for Hughes, 'The verse never breaks through into poetry', he brings out with chilling accuracy how the poem 'rehearses the ritual assassination of the poetic gift in Coleridge' (p. 81). The Dark Lady of the 'Ballade' turns away from her Geraldine-like affinities with the 'starry dark' (p. 80) to a stance that Hughes calls 'Christabel Militant' (p. 79); the poem ends with her unanswered fantasies of a white wedding. Hughes's mythic scheme can itself rigidify; and his hostility to Coleridge's Christianity can seem crude. But he evokes with a poet's sensitivity the unfolding movements of the poetry, especially The Ancient Mariner ; he recovers a full sense of the terrifying power of the original and of its stresses and strains, asking, for instance, 'does Coleridge himself know quite what has happened, as he struggles to rig the end of the poem, and negotiate the stages of the Mariner's return to the everyday world?' (p. 62). 'Rig', there, may look gratuitously cavalier; in context, though, it has about it an inflection of genuine, even admiring, sympathy. One comes away from the essay feeling that the author has illuminated - as Livingston Lowes never quite manages to - the very quick of the creative process in Coleridge. Hughes's reading is of particular interest at a time when substantial claims are being made for Coleridge's later poetry (as in Morton Paley's fine study); he confronts one with unignorable, uncomfortable questions of literary value.
In a more conventional academic idiom David Punter supplies a stimulating Introduction to the challenges of thinking about Blake as reflected in ten essays written about the poet between 1970 and 1990. Punter suggests that there is still something of a 'coterie ' flavour (p. 8) about Blakean criticism; certainly the critics seem not to imagine a reader more interested in poetry rather than in Blake as (flawed) intellectual guru. This flavour has always disappointed me in reading criticism on Blake, as it has in reading criticism of Shelley. It may be that both poets attract critics who come to literature in pursuit of alternative belief-systems. Three areas where significant debate is highlighted by the volume are the nature of Blake's political engagement, his attitude to literary structure, and his presentation of gender difference. Punter draws attention to the different inflections of marxism, post-structuralism, and feminism on display. So far as marxism is concerned, David E. James argues in his piece on America that our modern distinctions between matter and spirit, the historical and the idealistic, were not operative for Blake. This is an attractive attempt to mediate between extremes. James's conclusion, however, that 'Details from history are selected in so far as they illustrate the metaphysical conflict that is the poem's real subject' (p. 68) inadvertently reaffirms the primacy of the 'metaphysical' over 'history'. David Aers advocates what he calls 'self-reflexivity' on the part of the critic who is exhorted to be aware of the 'premises' of his or her practice (p. 167). His reading of Blake's 'representations of revolution' (p. 169) is based on the belief that criticism should commit itself to a revolutionary perspective (see p. 168). In fact, much of his essay concentrates on the shortcomings of Blake's poetry: the evasiveness of The French Revolution , the sexism of America, the 'one-dimensional' (p. 173) pessimism of Europe . Only in The Four Zoas , and even then only in patches (especially in Night VII), do radically new values of love and tenderness manifest themselves. The essay has a post-Puritan earnestness at once suited to aspects of its subject and difficult to reconcile with any emphasis on the pleasures of reading.
So far as post-structuralism is concerned, Nelson Hilton is the major deconstructive exemplar. By looking at Blake's use of images of chains, he argues that Blake seeks to offer 'an apocalyptic uncovering of language' (p. 88). David Simpson finds fault with the ahistorical tendencies of Derridean thought. To my mind more interestingly, W. J. T. Mitchell looks at various attitudes to writing in Blake's work. He argues for a reading of The Book of Urizen as featuring (in Urizen) 'a self-portrait of the artist as a solitary reader and writer of texts' (p. 131); yet the implied self-criticism here is not the dominant tone of Blake's view of writing. Against Derrida's deconstruction of writing to 'textuality', Mitchell sets Blake's stress on writing as a form of truth-telling that is authorised by the human imagination. Mitchell writes well about Blake's composite art, an attempt to marry 'the values of print and manuscript culture' (p. 135), and about 'the book-scroll opposition' (p. 138) in his work, books being associated 'with sleep, scrolls with wakefulness' (p. 139). He concludes that, for Blake, writing 'traces the clash of contraries and subverts the tendency to settle into the fixed oppositions he calls "Negations"' (p. 144). This view is perhaps a touch facile, and leaves unexplored the validity of a distinction between 'contraries' and 'negations'. But the essay is rich in its implications and insights.
Feminist, or gender-based, readings of Blake are illustrated by essays from Jean H. Hagstrum (suggesting that Blake can find in 'redeemed humanity' (p. 49) a place for sexual union), Laura Haigwood (taking issue in her reading of Visions of the Daughters of Albion with a male interpretative tradition and with a feminist emphasis on woman as victim), and Brenda S. Webster (offering a psycho-analytic account of Blake's 'misogyny' (p. 204)). However, the most intriguing comment about Blake's treatment of gender-difference comes from Punter in the Introduction. There, he comments that Blake's emphasis on forgiveness presupposes that there are things to forgive, and that the scenarios of the poetry feature much forgiveness-needed violence, often pivoting on 'masculine/feminine patterning' (p. 12). Though Punter does not explicitly say it, he suggests (to this reader) that much of Blake's value can be located precisely in his capacity to imagine conflicts between the 'masculine' and 'feminine'. To call such a capacity 'misogynist' is to devalue the harsh labours of the imagination.
The labours of Shelley's imagination in the process of creation have been charted in two major series, both under the general editorship of Donald H. Reiman, The Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics (nine volumes devoted to Shelley) and The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts (twenty-three volumes projected). The latter series, now close to completion, involves its editors in a variety of tasks: they include transcription, commentary on the state of the manuscript, bibliographical description, discussion of the provenance, dating, and transmission of the manuscript, and accounts of the connection between the manuscript and associated manuscripts. Each volume in the Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts series comes complete with facing photofacsimiles and transcriptions of the manuscript in question. Because manuscript evidence, often in the form of rough drafts, can be the primary (sometimes the sole) textual authority for Shelley's poetry and prose, it is of unusual significance for commentary on his work; thus, all critics writing on him need to consult the volumes in these two series. Nancy Goslee has edited, with triumphant success, one of the most interesting and difficult of Shelley's notebooks: Bodleian MS. Shelley adds. e. 12. In so doing, she has been able to draw on, and link her discoveries to, the work of previous editors in the series. Her work on the drafts of Prometheus Unbound , IV, for instance, 'confirms Neil Fraistat's suggestions [in volume IX of the series] that Act IV was begun far earlier than the evidence of Shelley's letters had led us to believe' (p. xxxiv). The notebook she has edited tests a Shelley scholar's knowledge and abilities to the limit; it is packed with drafts of a great variety of poems, possibly written as far apart as 1814 and 1821. It contains the draft of 'The Two Spirits - An Allegory', the only surviving manuscript of a poem which was never published in Shelley's life. Goslee's transcription modifies some readings adopted by Reiman and Powers in the standard Norton edition: whereas the Norton text has for line 11 the attractively unusual 'Within my heart is the torch of love', Goslee prefers the reading offered by most other editors, 'Within my heart is the lamp of love'. The manuscript is hard to read at this point (the word in question is written above the cancelled word 'light'), but it seems to bear out Goslee's reading.
The notebook contains, too, drafts of the Homeric Hymns translated by Shelley; drafts of Prometheus Unbound ; a draft of The Sensitive Plant (especially interesting, as Goslee points out, for its toning-down of the Lady's sexuality and for the probably late addition of stanzas that 'enrich the possibilities for allegorical reading' (p. l)); drafts of 'Ode to the West Wind'; drafts of 'England in 1819', 'Lift Not the Painted Veil', and 'On a Faded Violet'; drafts of 'The Coliseum'; an intermediate fair copy (in Mary Shelley's hand) of Julian and Maddalo (here entitled Maddalo and Julian ); and drafts of many other lyrics. A major discovery, first suggested by Dr B. C. Barker-Benfield of the Bodleian Library and corroborated by Goslee's textual examinations, is that nine missing leaves from the notebook are the first nine leaves of Shelley's holograph intermediate fair copy of The Mask of Anarchy , now in the British Library (Ashley MS. 4086). Here the importance of blots and offsets, familiar to editors of the series, shows itself; it is through the use of such physical evidence that certain matchings can be made. Goslee reconstructs the original form of the notebook with tenacious thoroughness, suggesting, for instance, as a terminus a quo for the ripping out of the nine pages Mary Shelley's letter to John Bowring in 1826 in which she encloses Shelley's fair copy of The Mask of Anarchy .
Goslee is also very thorough in her fresh consideration of questions of dating. The notebook contains its fair share of dating conundrums. It contains drafts of passages associated with Epipsychidion . Building on Tatsuo Tokoo's arguments in a celebrated paper, 'The Composition of Epipsychidion : Some Manuscript Evidence', Keats-Shelley Journal 42 (1993), Goslee argues that the second and third clusters of these drafts were composed in autumn 1819 or early 1820; thus, they were not inspired by Emilia Viviani, who - so to speak - in 1821 stepped into a poetic structure that awaited her arrival in Shelley's life. A major crux is the date to be assigned to 'Mine eyes were dim with tears unshed', ascribed by Mary Shelley (in adds. d. 9) to 1814 and (in Posthumous Poems (1824)) to 1821. Physical evidence (pen and pencil marks) leads Goslee to prefer the earlier date; she also inclines to the view that 'When passion's trance', assigned by Mary Shelley to 1821 and also written in pencil, may have been 'addressed to Harriet' (p. xix), then re-addressed to Mary, 'possibly as late as 1821' (p. xix).
Goslee is exemplary in providing the reader with the relevant evidence and distinguishing carefully between fact and conjecture, and between likely and unlikely speculations. She sheds new and further light on the dating of 'The Two Spirits' (which she thinks may have been written while or soon after the Shelleys were crossing the Alps on their way to Italy in March 1818), 'The Sunset' (probably composed before August 1818), and 'On a Faded Violet'. Having edited the Bodmeriana version of the last poem (Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics , Shelley , VIII, ed. Reiman and O'Neill), I was especially interested in Goslee's discussion of the date of composition. She is sceptical of the 1818 date given it by Mary Shelley and thinks that the poem was probably written for Sophia Stacey in 1819. This may be the case; if it is, it raises the question of Shelley's relationship with Stacey - or, rather, the question of how she is being used as an addressee in the poems given to or written for her (Goslee sees her as being made privy, obliquely, to Shelley's marital problems). However, Goslee is in error (one of the very few in her superbly meticulous edition) in transcribing Shelley's postscript to Mary's letter to Stacey of 7 March 1820, a postscript that contains the version of the poem in the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, Cologny-Geneve: part of what Shelley wrote was, 'And so—if you tell no one whose they [the verses] are, you are welcome to them'. But Goslee reads 'no one' as 'me', and argues that 'Sophia is to "tell ... whose they are"' (p. xliii). The result is that her version of the complicated feelings surrounding Shelley's transcription has Shelley surreptiously appealing to Sophia Stacey to identify him as the author; the words Shelley wrote are more enigmatic in their implications. Yet Goslee is fascinating on the links between this poem and two poems drafted close to it, 'Music' and 'I fear thy kisses'.
The Introduction, then, will need to be consulted by any critic writing on Shelley for its informed speculation about probable dating and its insight into the interaction between groups of poems. Goslee's feats of transcription are equally admirable. There are very few (possible) errors: on page 4 the first 'a' of 'dadail' appears to be a ligatured 'ae' in the original; on page 29 there appears to be no comma after 'deep' (line 20) in the original; on page 30 the punctuation mark after 'Nov. 5' looks more like a full stop than a comma; on folio 2 verso, line 19, of Ashley 4086, the original looks more like 'dweller' than 'dwelller', as Goslee has it; on folio 1 verso of the same manuscript there appears to be no comma in the original after 'Last' (line 14). Throughout, impossibly tangled drafts are wrought into sense with great skill. The reader can now see how some of the finest writing Shelley ever produced came into being; particularly interesting are the drafts of 'Ode to the West Wind', especially stanza IV, and the drafts of Prometheus Unbound , II, ii, and IV. The hauntingly estranged line 'Such as ghosts dream dwell in the lampless deep' (Prometheus Unbound , IV, 245), for instance, is a word or two away from realisation in adds. e. 12, which has 'we' in place of 'ghosts' (see page 103 of the Garland edition). For making available so many of Shelley's imaginings, Goslee puts all readers of Shelley in her debt. The publication of this superb edition is one of the most important events in Shelley scholarship for many years.
|Auteur :||Michael O'Neill|
|Titre :||'The Lampless Deep': Criss-Crossing Strains in Current Romantic Criticism|
|Ouvrages recensés :||Jerome McGann, The Poetics of Sensibility: A Revolution in Literary Style. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. ISBN: 0 19 818370 4 (hb). Price: £30.00 (hb)|
|Stephen Bygrave (ed.), Romantic Writings. London: Routledge in association with the Open University, 1996. ISBN: 0 145 13577 X (hb); 0 415 13578 8 (pb). Price: £45 (hb); £12.99 (pb)|
|Susan J. Wolfson and Peter J. Manning, eds. Lord Byron: Selected Poems. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996. ISBN: 0 14 042381 8. Price: £7.99|
|Ted Hughes, ed. and intro. A Choice of Coleridge's Verse. London: Faber and Faber, 1996. ISBN: 0 571 17604 6. Price: £7.99|
|David Punter, ed. William Blake. New Casebooks. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996. ISBN: 0 333 54597 4 (pb). Price: £10.99 (pb)|
|Nancy Moore Goslee, ed. 'The Homeric Hymns' and 'Prometheus' Drafts Notebook: Bodleian MS. Shelley adds. e. 12, vol. XVIII of The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996. ISBN: 0 8153 1153 2. Price: $160 (hb)|
|Revue :||Romanticism on the Net, Numéro 7, août 1997|
Copyright © Michael Eberle-Sinatra 1996-2002 — All rights reserved