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Numéro 19, août 2000

New Texts and Textual Scholarship in British Literature, 1780-1830

Sous la direction de Anthony John Harding

Direction : Michael Eberle-Sinatra (directeur)

Éditeur : Université de Montréal

ISSN : 1467-1255 (numérique)

DOI : 10.7202/005929ar

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The Workshop of Shelley's Poetry

Neil Fraistat

University of Maryland

Editor's Note

The first volume of The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley is now available from Johns Hopkins University Press (ISBN: 0-8018-6119-5 - Price: US$75). You can find more information about this edition at the Johns Hopkins UP website.


My point of departure is a textual process well described by Rachel Blau DuPlessis:

An editor (whatever the ideology of his/her production) is not making an iconic or static thing when an edition is created, but entering into and engaging in transmissions that are (in principle) ceaseless . . . . Transmission, like translation, involves acts of intervention—agenda'd, rife with the contingent, special pleading, interpretation. Every choice is motivated and belongs in certain ways to its own time, to its own technology, and regimes. [1]

For Du Plessis any text "contains, and is the result of a workshop," a "site of labor, an apparatus of production, the work of several hands on deck."


The workshop that is the necessary condition of Shelley's texts in history is a complicated and notoriously vexed melange, involving poems Shelley unsuccessfully attempted to publish during his lifetime; published poetry rife with errors because Shelley was not allowed to correct proof; poetry and fragments that Shelley chose not to publish during his lifetime but which nonetheless constitute the 25-30% of his canon published posthumously; the early editorial interventions of Mary Shelley and Shelley's friends; the appropriation of Shelley's texts by literary pirates in the period between 1821 and 1840; family ownership of the poet's manuscripts and letters that restricted full access to all but selected scholars until after World War II; the assignment of editorships of texts; editorial rivalries in the reconstruction of the same textual situation; and erroneous but self-empowering editorial assumptions that Shelley was innocent of grammar and didn't care about such details as spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.


Shelley's texts contain multitudes, as it were, and perhaps more than the biography of the poet, we need to learn what Du Plessis would call the biography of his texts, which is a good way to describe the project Don Reiman and I have undertaken in editing The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley. [2] As an illustration of what such biographies might reveal, I'd like to turn briefly to one of the most interesting poems that Shelley never wrote, "The Ocean rolls between us."



The lines beginning "The Ocean rolls between us," and appearing in most collective editions as either a discrete poem or as part of a larger lyric ("To Ireland"), in fact originated as a prose passage in a letter Shelley wrote to Elizabeth Hitchener on 14 February 1812, which is now at the British Library (Add. MS 37496, folios 89-90) [3] and which reads in a line for line transcription of the MS:

<L 1>                                                                 . . .—The Ocean

<L 2>rolls between us.O thou Ocean, whose multitudinous billows ever

<L 3>lash, Erin's green isle on whose shores, this venturous arm would

<L 4>plant the flag of liberty. Roll on! and with each wave whose echoings

<L 5>die, amid thy melancholy silentness shall die a moment too— one

<L 6>of those moments, which part my friend and me. I could stand, upon

<L 7> thy shores, o Erin, and could count the billows that in their unceasing

<L 8> swell, dash on thy beach, and every wave might seem, an instrument

<L 9>in Time the giant's grasp, to burst the barriers of Eternity

<L 10>Proceed thou giant conquering and to conquer. March on thy lonely

<L 11>way—the Nations fall beneath thy noiseless footstep— pyramids

<L 12>that for milleniums have defied the blast, and laughed at lightnings thou

<L 13>dost crush to nought. Yon monarch in his solitary pomp, is but the

<L 14>fungus of a winter day that thy light footstep presses into

<L 15>dust -—Thou art a conqueror Time! all things give way before

<L 16>thee, but "the fixed and virtuous will," the sacred sympathy of soul

<L 17>which was when thou wert not, which shall be when thou perish

<L 18> est.—

In the same letter to Hitchener, Shelley copied two of his actual lyrics, including the poem first titled "To Ireland" by William Michael Rossetti in his 1870 edition of Shelley's poetry: [4]


BEAR witness, Erin! when thine injured isle

Sees summer on its verdant pastures smile,

Its cornfields waving in the winds that sweep

The billowy surface of thy circling deep.

Thou tree whose shadow o'er the Atlantic gave

Peace, wealth, and beauty, to its friendly wave,

 ...its blossoms fade,

And blighted are the leaves that cast its shade;

Whilst the cold hand gathers its scanty fruit,

Whose chillness struck a canker to its root.

"The Ocean rolls between us" began its textual life as a poem when Edward Dowden, in his 1886 biography of Shelley, noticed that preceding "To Ireland" there was a prose passage in the letter in which Shelley's "ecstatic protestations of eternal friendship, though written as prose, assume consciously or unconsciously the form of blank verse . . .", [5] a fact Dowden highlights by setting lines 15-18 of my transcription as four lines of blank verse:

Thou art a conqueror, Time; all things give way

Before thee but 'the fixed and virtuous will;'

The sacred sympathy of soul which was

When thou wert not, which shall be when thou perishest.

Dowden adds in a footnote: "A few of the lines which precede may be given here to show that the blank verse can hardly have been an accident," and he prints as verse lines 6-10 of my transcription:

                                          I could stand

Upon thy shores, O Erin, and could count

The billows that, in their unceasing swell,

Dash on thy beach, and every wave might seem

An instrument in Time, the giant's grasp,

To burst the barriers of Eternity.

Proceed, thou giant, conquering and to conquer;

I, 247-48

The first editor to act upon Dowden's observation was George Woodberry, who in his 1892 edition [6] created an entirely new work in Shelley's poetic canon under Rossetti's title "To Ireland" by adding Dowden's blank verse as a second stanza to the rhymed couplets of "Bear witness, Erin!" and filling in some of the lines that Dowden had omitted (lines 10-15 of the transcription):



Bear witness, Erin! when thine injured isle

Sees summer on its verdant pastures smile,

Its cornfields waving in the winds that sweep

The billowy surface of thy circling deep!

Thou tree whose shadow o'er the Atlantic gave

Peace, wealth and beauty, to its friendly wave,

                                        its blossoms fade,

And blighted are the leaves that cast its shade;

Whilst the cold hand gathers its scanty fruit,

Whose chillness struck a canker to its root.


                                         I could stand

Upon thy shores, O Erin, and could count

The billows that, in their unceasing swell,

Dash on thy beach, and every wave might seem

An instrument in Time, the giant's grasp,

To burst the barriers of Eternity.

Proceed, thou giant, conquering and to conquer;

March on thy lonely way! The nations fall

Beneath thy noiseless footstep; pyramids

That for millenniums have defied the blast,

And laughed at lightnings, thou dost crush to nought.

Yon monarch, in his solitary pomp,

Is but the fungus of a winter day

That thy light footstep presses into dust.

Thou art a conqueror, Time; all things give way

Before thee but 'the fixed and virtuous will;'

The sacred sympathy of soul which was

When thou wert not, which shall be when thou perishest.

In his immensely influential 1905 Oxford Standard Authors edition of Shelley's poetry, Thomas Hutchinson simply followed the lead of Woodberry. [7] Roger Ingpen in the 1927 Julian edition [8] was more textually adventuresome, reversing the order of the stanzas in "To Ireland," so that "Bear witness, Erin!" becomes the second stanza rather than the first, and preceding the blank verse lines fashioned from Shelley's prose by Woodberry with eight more lines newly excavated from the prose in Shelley's letter (lines 1-6 of the transcription):

The ocean rolls between us. O thou ocean,

Whose multitudinous billows ever lash

Erin's green isle, on whose shores this venturous arm

Would plant the flag of liberty, roll on!

And with each wave whose echoings die amid

Thy melancholy silentless [sic for "silentness"] shall die

A moment too—one of those moments which

Part my friend and me!

In his notoriously ill-fated 1972 Oxford English Text edition, Neville Rogers reproduces the text as given in the Julian edition, though he notes that Frederick Jones objected in his 1964 edition of Shelley's letters to the yoking of "Bear witness, Erin!" and the lines fashioned from Shelley's prose as a single continuous poem [9]—an objection with which Geoffrey Matthews and Kelvin Everest agree in their 1989 Longman edition, where the two sections are printed as separate poems: "The Ocean rolls between us" and "Bear witness, Erin!" [10]


I offer this account of the poetic birth and subsequent textual mutations of "The Ocean rolls between us" not so much to illustrate what might seem to be the capricious intervention of Shelley's editors, but rather because it clearly makes visible the workshop process so well described by Du Plessis and so fundamental to our received canon of Shelley's poetry. [11] It also helps to demonstrate the need for the kind of comprehensive edition that Don Reiman and I are producing, one that recovers the historical status of all of Shelley's poetic texts. Whatever else it might be, such historical editing is situational, responding more or less to the needs of its own cultural moment as it reconstructs a textual past. To better clarify those needs, let us look more broadly the history of Shelley's texts.



As Don Reiman and I outline in our Editorial Overview, when Shelley drowned in July 1822, he had published under his name (or publicly acknowledged during his maturity) only nine volumes of poetry: Queen Mab, Alastor, Laon and Cythna (which he almost immediately reissued as The Revolt of Islam), Rosalind and Helen, The Cenci, Prometheus Unbound, Epipsychidion, Adonais, and Hellas. [12] Just four of these volumes contain shorter poems in addition to their title poems, but Shelley had published "Mont Blanc" in History of a Six Weeks' Tour (which consists chiefly of prose based on the letters and journals of Mary and Percy Shelley) and, besides repeatedly attempting to publish the large body of poems in The Esdaile Notebook, had sent to periodicals several short poems that appeared anonymously or under pseudonyms. Shelley also arranged for Oedipus Tyrannus; or, Swellfoot the Tyrant to be published anonymously in London (where it was immediately suppressed), and he had sent to Leigh Hunt or Charles Ollier for publication fair-copy MSS of Julian and Maddalo, The Mask of Anarchy, Peter Bell the Third, and The Witch of Atlas, as well as several political and art lyrics that he wished to be published—a few of which did appear in periodicals before or immediately following his death. [13]Finally, he had given to his closest friends and confidants a number of personal lyrics and highly subversive poems on political and religious issues that he felt were not ready for publication.


Soon after Shelley's death, Mary Shelley wrote to Charles Ollier, his principal publisher, requesting the return of the press copies of Shelley's unpublished writings, as well as the unsold stock of his published works. From friends, she similarly gathered manuscripts and copies of his letters. Meanwhile, she pored over the mass of notebooks and loose sheets that represented the workshop remnants of Shelley's poetic production. Many of the unpublished fragments are in the roughest of drafts, scrawled nearly indecipherably into notebooks wherever Shelley could find space, so that sometimes drafts for different poems are jumbled together on the same page or a single poem is interspersed with others throughout a notebook or even continued in other notebooks without any indication. [14] Working with her intimate and unequalled knowledge of Shelley's hand and his habits of composition, Mary Shelley transcribed into a copybook now designated Bodleian MS. Shelley adds. d.7 what Irving Massey has described as "any and all interesting scraps from Shelley's papers" that she could glean, ultimately filling the notebook with more than one hundred poems and prose fragments. [15] In a companion notebook, now designated Bodleian MS. Shelley adds. d.9, she transcribed another collection, more obviously polished for publication, that includes some items from the first notebook. In still other notebooks she similarly transcribed and organized Shelley's unpublished prose.


While preparing Shelley's fragmentary and unreleased poetry for the press, Mary Shelley often had to decide which of the lines scattered through the MSS belonged to a single poem and in which order the stanzas belonged (since Shelley frequently did not draft his poems sequentially). She provided names for untitled poems and polished the drafts that Shelley would clearly have reworked before publishing—supplying punctuation, choosing among alternative words, and sometimes filling verbal gaps in the MSS, practices that she had followed while transcribing Shelley's work when he was alive and could review her decisions. Without question, then, no one has had a greater impact on the editing and transmission of Shelley's poetry than Mary Shelley. Until after 1946, moreover, other editors lacked access to the wide range of MSS from which she worked, leaving them unable to evaluate her editorial decisions or those of Shelley's friends and nineteenth-century editors who similarly published poems and fragments that Shelley never released during his lifetime from MSS to which they had special access.


Rather than immediately publishing all of Shelley's works in a collective edition, Mary Shelley instead selected a volume of his more uncontroversial poetry. [16] In Posthumous Poems, she published not only the poems that survived in polished MSS, such as Julian and Maddalo, Prince Athanase, Letter to Maria Gisborne (slightly censored), and The Witch of Atlas, but she also polished (and often truncated) versions of many poetic drafts and fragments—notably The Triumph of Life—that she had transcribed from Shelley's working papers, together with Alastor and "Mont Blanc" (which she reprinted from their original volumes to make them better known).


After brisk early sales, however, Posthumous Poems was suppressed by order of Shelley's father, upon whom Mary Shelley depended for money to support and educate her surviving son, and she was unable to fulfill her hopes of editing a collective edition of Shelley's poetry until 1839. In the meantime, a series of radical, piratical, or otherwise marginal publishers—notably Richard Carlile, William Benbow, and John Ascham—kept much of Shelley's poetry in print in England, while in Paris the English-born Galignani brothers enlisted the journalist Cyrus Redding to obtain the surreptitious help of Mary Shelley in correcting and adding to Shelley's oeuvre for their collective edition of The Poetical Works of Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats (1829). The editions of Ascham (1834) and the Galignani brothers assumed special importance in the transmission of Shelley's poetry when their pages provided Mary Shelley with the basis of her press copy for the 1839 edition. [17]


Throughout the 1830s, new poems by Shelley were issued by his friends in books or periodicals, a renaissance of interest partly spurred by the publication of a phantom from Shelley's youth: The Wandering Jew, a tumultuous Gothic and Shelley's earliest major poetic effort, which survived at Edinburgh in a revised holograph manuscript and appeared in two incomplete versions, first in an Edinburgh periodical in 1829 and then in a London one in 1831. [18] In 1832, a decade after Shelley's death, Leigh Hunt edited The Mask of Anarchy, Thomas Jefferson Hogg mentioned some of Shelley's anonymous early poems in his New Monthly Magazine articles entitled "Percy Bysshe Shelley at Oxford," and Thomas Medwin published both a memoir and corrupt texts of some of his cousin's prose and poems, including three of the lyrics that Shelley had inscribed to Jane Williams, first in The Athenaeum and then in book form as The Shelley Papers (1833). [19]


But Mary Shelley, whose foremost aim was to popularize Shelley's poetry among early Victorian readers, did not include any of his writings prior to Queen Mab in her three basic editions of his Poetical Works (1839, 1840, and 1847) or in the one-volume larger format editions that included these texts of the poetry together with a selection of letters and prose from Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments, which she originally published in two volumes in 1840. [20] Though Mary Shelley and Leigh Hunt obviously believed in the intrinsic aesthetic value of Shelley's writings, their first concern was to overcome prejudices against him by the establishment and the middle classes and, thus, to win him a place as a canonical rather than coterie poet. Hunt's introduction to The Mask (which he changed to Masque of Anarchy) attempts to soften Shelley's image by recalling his aristocratic Whig background and emphasizing how many of the evils attacked by Shelley in that prophetic poem had already been mitigated by the liberalization of British thought between 1819 and 1832, to which both Hunt and Shelley had contributed.


Mary Shelley's first collective edition of Poetical Works (1839) continued to omit some of Shelley's most outspoken mature political writings, including his attacks in Queen Mab on marriage, Christianity, and other established institutions of the age, as well as the entire texts of Peter Bell the Third and Swellfoot the Tyrant. Only after friends and some reviewers protested her bowdlerization of Queen Mab did she restore its text and include the two satirical poems in 1840, but she continued to omit the poems that Shelley had written before Queen Mab. Mary Shelley's monumental editions of the poetry—which begin with a section of major works chronologically ordered, followed by a section of the shorter poems organized by year of composition, and conclude with a section of juvenilia—set the pattern for most editions of Shelley's poetry, many of which also include her rich and emotionally compelling biographical notes to the poems. [21]


The next wave of Shelleyan editors, epitomized by William Michael Rossetti and Henry (Harry) Buxton Forman, were men who had admired Shelley from youth and whose close friends were enthusiastic about his art and ideas. [22] By the 1860s, they found that there was no really complete edition in print and that not only the piracies but even Mary Shelley's later editions, published by Edward Moxon and his successors, were textually corrupt. Rossetti and Forman both tried to solve these problems by tracking down friends and acquaintances of the poet, gaining insight to his character and ideas through the oral tradition, as well as gaining access to primary documents. But they ultimately chose to resolve textual cruxes in disparate ways. Faced with typographical errors and other difficulties in the pages of the later printing of Mary Shelley's edition that served as his base text, Rossetti often chose to adopt aesthetic solutions to textual cruxes, emending the texts where he believed that the metrics, diction, or logic were inferior, illogical, or otherwise "un-Shelleyan." [23] Forman, on the other hand, whenever he could afford to do so, bought first editions, manuscript letters, and some literary MSS of Shelley for what eventually became the largest collection of its time relating to Shelley, John Keats, and their contemporaries. From his study of these authorities, Forman adopted the conservative scholarly method of correcting the corrupted texts by comparing them with primary editions and (when he encountered them) MSS in the hand of Shelley and Mary Shelley, the collation of which often enabled him to solve interpretive as well as textual problems. [24]


Nevertheless, Rossetti's editions of 1870 (2 vols.) and 1878 (3 vols.), published by the Moxon firm, were received as the official successors to Mary Shelley's texts. Forman, by contrast, had a lesser-known publisher, and his four-volume edition of the poetry (1876-77, corr. 1880) and the four volumes of Shelley's prose and letters that he added to complete his Library Edition of 1880 were considered too bulky and professional for general readers. For these and other reasons, Rossetti's text seems to have been far more widely disseminated throughout the last thirty years of the century, although Forman's 1876-77 edition of the Poetical Works revealed so many errors and problems in Rossetti's conjectural emendations that Rossetti was forced to withdraw a number of them in his second edition, published in 1878. Forman's trimmed down two-volume edition of the poetry in 1882 became the basis of F. S. Ellis's 1892 Lexical Concordance of Percy Bysshe Shelley and was reissued with additions as the Aldine Edition in 1892. [25]


Later editors seemed unable to decide whether Rossetti's or Forman's editorial methodology was preferable. Although they introduced evidence from whatever new MSS or printings they personally uncovered, even those who understood the value of Forman's methods and claimed to base their texts directly on the best primary authorities generally used as press copy disbound copies of one or more prior editions, altered by introducing a handful of verbal emendations that suited their personal interpretations, while changing the punctuation and orthography on the basis of taste, logical reasoning, or the press's house style. The widely circulated Macmillan edition of Edward Dowden (1890), George Edward Woodberry's Centenary Edition (4 vols., 1892) and one-volume Cambridge Edition (1901), Thomas Hutchinson's Oxford Edition (1904—but reset as the Oxford Standard Authors edition in 1905), C. D. Locock's Methuen editions (1906-8, 1911), the four poetry volumes in the Julian Edition (1927-28, the work of Roger Ingpen), and many lesser editions from the mid-nineteenth century to the present sometimes resemble the texts of Medieval scribes of biblical or Classical MSS who, lacking wide access to authoritative documents, freely emended cruxes according to their best understanding of the authors' intentions.


Shelleyan editors of the Victorian period who desired to check their educated judgments about textual problems against a full range of the documentary evidence were often unable to do so. For throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, the bulk of Shelley's holograph MSS were kept under lock and key by Sir Percy Florence and Jane, Lady Shelley, in a sanctum sanctorum at Boscombe Manor, the evidence from which reached the public only through periodic gleanings sponsored or approved by them, such as Shelley Memorials (1859), in which Shelley's Essay on Christianity first appeared; Richard Garnett's Relics of Shelley (1862), which contained fragments of poetry and prose from a few notebooks, including the so-called "Prologue to Hellas"; and the archive of censored texts of letters and journals by the Shelleys and their intimates, arranged chronologically and privately printed in a multivolume set entitled Shelley and Mary (1886). [26] Even this last was circulated chiefly to the friends of Sir Percy and Lady Shelley, frequently with sections considered too revealing snipped out by scissors and with personal caveats added by Lady Shelley herself. [27] In 1892 (after the death of Sir Percy Florence Shelley in December 1889), Lady Shelley proposed to honor the centennial of Shelley's birth by donating both his and Mary Shelley's letters, together with selected notebooks and relics, to the Bodleian Library (under restrictions about when and by whom they might be seen). [28] There the German scholars Julius Zupitza and Joseph Schick studied the MSS of Prometheus Unbound in the 1890s, Locock published An Examination of the Shelley Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library and used his findings in the two editions of Shelley's poetry mentioned above, and the French scholar André Koszul issued his editions of Shelley's Prose in the Bodleian Manuscripts and Mary Shelley's Proserpine and Midas. [29]


Between the two world wars and throughout the Modernist ascendancy, Shelley's reputation in the academy sank to a low ebb at Oxford and throughout English-speaking nations, generating little interest in the study of his MSS. Moreover, the initial bequest to the Bodleian provided a selection of evidence too unrepresentative and inadequate to enable scholars to understand their precise authority vis-à-vis the larger cache of MSS that Lady Shelley simultaneously bequeathed to Sir John Shelley (later Shelley-Rolls). Fortunately, Sir John himself took an interest in them, and he cooperated with Roger Ingpen in producing private printings of an unbowdlerized text of Shelley's translation of Plato's Symposium, together with Shelley's introductory Discourse on the Manners of the Ancient Greeks (1931) and Verse and Prose from the Manuscripts of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1934).


In 1946, B. C. Barker-Benfield notes, Sir John Shelley-Rolls donated "his major run of notebooks to the Bodleian" and arranged for the remainder of the Boscombe Manor trove of papers and relics to be added to the Bodleian's collections after the death of his wife, which occurred in 1961. [30] The first person to take an extended interest in the 1946 gift was Neville Rogers, who first publicized the bequest of Shelley's draft MSS to the Bodleian in British journals and later made them better known in Shelley at Work, a volume that revealed much about a few of the Bodleian's Shelley MSS and the difficulty of deciphering them, though in a context that portrayed Shelley as an intuitive Platonic thinker who had little interest in the practical details of life or art. [31] Rogers viewed the chaotic state of the MSS as a vindication of his view (a common prejudice of his day) that Shelley cared little for grammar or logic—a poet who grasped misty Platonic ideas but left the details of their articulation to be improved upon by his editors.


Soon after the first volume of Rogers's long-awaited Oxford English Text edition appeared in 1972, its texts were discovered to be chiefly reprints (with some added errors) of the texts in Thomas Hutchinson's Oxford Standard Authors edition, containing little new material besides the poems first published in 1964 by Kenneth Neill Cameron in The Esdaile Notebook. [32] The other poems that Rogers added were chiefly of doubtful authorship. In editing materials not found in Hutchinson, Rogers followed the principle of changing whatever he failed to understand. After a similarly inadequate second volume appeared in 1972, the general outcry against Rogers's edition by scholarly reviewers forced Oxford University Press to suspend its publication. Shelley scholars and critics, then, continued to lack a trustworthy complete scholarly edition.


The modern fortunes of Shelley's texts improved when G. M. Matthews, after correcting errors in the old Hutchinson OSA edition (1970), began reediting all of Shelley's poetry for the Longman series of English poets, of which F. W. Bateson was the first General Editor. Matthews, however, was unable to complete the first volume before his untimely death in 1984, after which Kelvin Everest completed the research on Volume I of The Poems of Shelley (1989). The first of three proposed volumes (Volume II has not yet appeared), Volume I reflects scholarly care and editorial skill. Matthews and Everest assiduously studied the political, social, and intellectual life of Shelley's times, uncovering many new sources and much evidence about the dating and circumstances of the composition of individual poems. They also examined all possible textual authorities (those in the U.K. more intensively than those in America), although Volume I, governed by rules for the Longman editions (which Bateson conceived as a series of student textbooks), modernizes some of the punctuation and orthography and does not include complete collations of either the primary sources or intervening editions.


Matthews and Everest valuably attempted to publish Shelley's poems and fragments in a rigorously chronological order (again, a desideratum in Bateson's conception of the series), thereby demonstrating Shelley's development as a poet. As a result, however, their edition mixes important poems that Shelley published with recently recovered fragments that he had rejected and lines of lost poems quoted by his friends from memory decades after his death, thus obscuring the history of the poetic career that Shelley had shaped and his contemporaries had witnessed, as well as separating poems that he intended to appear together and modify one another. Moreover, dating Shelley's works—especially the early poems and the unreleased fragments—is notoriously difficult and often inconclusive, partly because we often lack sufficient evidence to draw secure conclusions and partly because (as recent studies have shown) Shelley sometimes obfuscated the dates of his compositions for personal reasons. Arranging his poems in a suppositional order of composition thus often risks misleading rather than illuminating.



Whereas Matthews and Everest carried the editing of Shelley's poetry as far as it could go using the chronological, reader-centered principles championed by the Longman series, Don Reiman and I have undertaken a quite different task. We are producing an authorially governed, historically focused, and text-centered edition that highlights the production, reception, and transmission of his poetry. Our approach, based on Forman's example, has not been pursued seriously since 1880 and we believe it is best designed not only to address the still problematic textual history of Shelley's work but also to make effective use of the wealth of new textual evidence made available by the publication of Shelley and his Circle: 1773-1822, the catalogue-edition of The Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection, New York Public Library (10 vols. to date; 1961—), the Shelley volumes of Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics (9 vols., 1985-97), and The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts (23 vols., 1986-99), which were in the early stages of publication at the time of Matthews' death.


To this end, we abide by the following principles. First, we distinguish the completed poems that Shelley released to a contemporary audience—which we edit critically—from the other drafts and fragmentary efforts that he discarded, withheld from public view, or left unfinished at his death—which we present in diplomatic transcription. Second, we edit the released poems to represent, insofar as the surviving evidence permits, the texts that Shelley intended his first readers to see at the time he released them. Our typical text will be a critical redaction of a single version that Shelley chose to release to a particular public on a specific occasion. Each released poem, then, will appear in the version in which Shelley released it, following his preferred standards of grammar, pointing, and orthography as established by his MSS and published editions. Third, in emending our copy-text, we observe Coleridge's dictum that "until you understand a writer's ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his understanding." Many of Shelley's supposed errors or eccentricities prove to be merely forms and meanings conventionally correct for a person of his day and class. Fourth, we retain both the sequential order of release and the internal arrangement of Shelley's poetic volumes to reveal the significance of their interrelationships and of his poetic development. Fifth, we provide extensive collations of both the primary variants at the foot of the text page and the historical collations at the back of the book, supplying a detailed record of changes during the composition and transmission of each poem that shows how our text of a poem relates both to its authoritative copy-text and to the texts derived by other editors. Sixth, to foster historical understanding of individual poems and the larger units within which they are grouped, our commentary situates Shelley's works within their biographical origins, sociopolitical ambiences, and literary traditions, both ideological and generic. Seventh, within our commentary we also highlight the material features of both the MSS and the published volumes, and recount their paths to and through the press. Finally, the commentary alludes to the reception of each poem or fragment and to its cultural development in subsequent textual, literary, and intellectual history. In short, we have tried to supply readers with full biographies of Shelley's poems and unpublished poetry, revealing each as the site of a historical workshop very much still in progress. [33]


Given these principles, how, then, do we treat "The Ocean rolls between us" in Volume I of our edition? Michael O'Neill has recently noted that the question of whether this passage "should be set out as verse is a ticklish editorial decision" and that "what sways me in favour of doing so is PBS's apparent use of commas to indicate line-breaks." [34] But is Shelley indicating line breaks with the commas, or simply rhetorical pauses, as he is wont to do? Should we be systematically scouring Shelley's prose for evidence of other such "poems"? If so, they would probably not be hard to find. [35] Because Shelley only produced and released these lines as prose within a letter, no matter how poetic they might be, we do not print them as a separate poem, nor as part of a larger poem coupled with "Bear witness, Erin!" Instead, in an Appendix we transcribe the relevant portion of Shelley's letter to Elizabeth Hitchener and relate the textual history of its transformation into poetic form, for readers to judge the evidence for themselves. Such critical decisions—on the part of readers as well as editors—are the price of doing business in the workshop of Shelley's poetry.




"Shoptalk: Working Conditions and Marginal Gains," in Textual Studies in the Late Age of Print, eds. Elizabeth B. Loizeaux and Neil Fraistat (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, forthcoming).


Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. Much of what follows is adapted from Appendix B and our co-written Editorial Overview.


A photofacsimile and transcription of this MS is available in Fair-Copy Manuscripts of Shelley's Poems in European and American Libraries, eds. Donald H. Reiman and Michael O'Neill, Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics VIII (New York: Garland, 1997) p. 58.


The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 2 vols. (London: E. Moxon, Son & Co., 1870).


The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 2 vols. (London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1886) vol. I, p. 247.


The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Centenary Edition, 4 vols. (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1892).


This 1905 edition was reset from Hutchinson's The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1904).


The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, eds. Roger Ingpen and Walter E. Peck, 10 vols. (London: Ernest Benn; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926-30).


The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Neville Rogers, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972) vol. I, p. 353. The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Frederick L. Jones, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964) vol. I, p. 254n13; hereafter abbreviated as Letters.


The Poems of Shelley, I vol. to date (London: Longman, 1989) vol. I, pp. 208-11.


Any number of further examples might be adduced. See, for instance, my discussion of "Misery.—A Fragment," from which Shelley's unused draft was turned by editors into several individually titled fragments and, even, one separate poem (Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound" Notebooks, Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts IX [New York: Garland, 1991] pp. xlvii-lvii).


Reiman treats some of this textual history and discusses our nascent editorial policies in "'Poetry in a More Restricted Sense': The Canon of Shelley's Poems and the Canon of his Poetry," in "Evaluating Shelley, eds. Timothy Clark and Jerrold E. Hogle (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996) pp. 225-44. See also the history of Shelley's texts provided in the introduction to Matthews's and Everest's Longman edition, vol. I, pp. xiv-xxvi.


From Shelley's letters, it is apparent that he at least twice sent Ollier poems to be grouped with Julian and Maddalo in a volume he conceived as "all of my saddest verses raked up in one heap" (Letters II, 246). For the probable contents of such a volume and for bibliographical evidence that he had indeed gathered a previously unknown set of fair copy MSS for this purpose, see Fraistat, "Prometheus," pp. liii-lv. For reasons still unknown, neither this volume, nor Shelley's "little volume of popular songs wholly political & destined to awaken & direct the imagination of the reformers" (Letters II, 191), ever went into print. Michael Henry Scrivener valuably discusses both the probable contents of the volume of "popular songs," built around The Mask of Anarchy, and their textual transmission in Radical Shelley: The Philosphical Anarchism and Utopian Thought of Percy Bysshe Shelley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982) pp. 227-233.


See, for example, the draft for "Ode to the West Wind" and the other poems scattered throughout one of Shelley's Italian notebooks, now at the Huntington Library and designated HM 2176, and available in Mary Quinn's photofacsimile edition: The 1819-1821 Huntington Notebook, Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics VI (New York: Garland, 1994). Most of the notebooks reproduced in photofacsimile and edited in this series and in the Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts series afford relevant examples.


Posthumous Poems of Shelley: Mary Shelley's Fair Copy Book (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1969) p. 7; see also Irving Massey's photofacsimile edition of Bodleian MS. Shelley adds. d.7 in Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts II (New York: Garland,1987).


For a discussion of Mary Shelley's plans for publishing Shelley's works in the 1820s and her deferral of these plans, see Fraistat, ed. Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound" Notebooks , Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts IX (New York: Garland, 1991) pp. xxxiv-xxxv.


The most extensive studies of the modes of production and cultural contexts of the literary pirates are Iain McCalman, Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries, and Pornographers in London, 1795-1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988) and Hugh J. Luke, "'Drams for the Vulgar': A Study of Some Radical Publishers and Publications in Early Nineteenth-Century London", Unpublished Dissertation (University of Texas, 1963). Charles H. Taylor, Jr., provided the seminal textual analysis of the role of unauthorized or pirated editions in the textual transmission of Shelley's poetry in The Early Collected Editions of Shelley's Poems: A Study in the History and Transmission of the Printed Text (Yale University Press, 1958). For a discussion of the textual and social significance of Posthumous Poems and the piracies between 1821 and 1839, see Neil Fraistat, "Illegitimate Shelley: Radical Piracy and the Textual Edition as Cultural Performance," PMLA 109 (May 1994): 409-23. For the pirating of Shelley, see also William St. Clair, The Godwins and the Shelleys: A Biography of a Family (New York: Norton, 1989) pp. 512-18.


For a detailed discussion of the complicated textual history of The Wandering Jew, see Reiman and Fraistat, vol. I, pp. 189-95.


For a good account of Hunt's role in the poem's publication and transmission, see The Mask of Anarchy, ed. Donald H. Reiman, Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics II (New York: Garland, 1985) pp. xi-xxiii. Hogg's "Percy Bysshe Shelley at Oxford" appeared in the New Monthly Magazine for 1 January 1832 (pp. 90-96), 1 February 1832 (pp. 136-44), 1 April 1832 (pp. 343-52), 1 July 1832 (pp. 65-73), 1 October 1832 (pp. 321-30), 1 December 1832 (pp. 505-13), and 1 May 1833 (17-29). His accounts of Shelley's life and poems are notoriously unreliable, as are the texts of the Shelley letters and poems he published. Between 11 August and 17 November 1832, Medwin printed seven of Shelley's poems, including three lyrics written for Jane Williams. Several of the alterations and expurgations he introduced into these texts were transmitted in Mary Shelley's 1839 edition, for which she apparently used Medwin's The Shelley Papers as a base text (see Fraistat, "Prometheus," p. xlix). In her 1840 edition, Mary Shelley printed corrected versions of the three poems to Jane Williams, but even so, in keeping Jane Williams's name out of the text of line 42 of "The Magnetic Lady to Her Patient," she retained Medwin's "'Twould kill me what would cure me," for Shelley's "What would cure that would kill me, Jane."


All of these editions were published by Moxon.


Both Mary Shelley's construction of her Shelley editions and her construction of Shelley through those editions have been valuably discussed by Susan Wolfson in "Editorial Privilege: Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley's Audiences," in The Other Mary Shelley, eds. Audrey A. Fisch, Anne K. Mellor, and Esther H. Schor (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993) pp. 39-72. In the same volume, see also Mary Favret, "Mary Shelley's Sympathy and Irony: The Editor and Her Corpus," pp. 17-38.


See, for example, the letters about Shelley that Rossetti and Forman each exchanged with Richard Garnett—a distinguished man of letters, Shelley enthusiast, and librarian at the British Museum—who had the full confidence of Lady Shelley and who co-authored with her Shelley Memorials—in William R. Thurman, Jr., "Letters About Shelley from the Richard Garnett Papers," Unpublished Dissertation (University of Texas, 1972). For letters between Rossetti, Dowden and Garnett, see also Letters about Shelley Interchanged by Three Friends—Edward Dowden, Richard Garnett and Wm. Michael Rossetti, edited by Garnett's son R. S. Garnett (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1917).


The once loose pages of Rossetti's press copy for his 1870 edition, mainly extracted from late reprints of Mary Shelley's edition, but supplemented and emended in his hand, were later rebound in two volumes and are now in the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, New York Public Library. For Rossetti's editing of Shelley there are valuable entries throughout Rossetti Papers, 1862-1870, ed. William Michael Rossetti (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1903), The Diary of W. M. Rossetti, 1870-73, ed. Odette Bornand (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977), W.M.R.'s two-volume Some Reminiscences of William Michael Rossetti (1906; New York: AMS Press, 1970), and Letters of William Michael Rossetti concerning Whitman, Blake, and Shelley (Durham: Duke University Press, 1934).

As Donald Reiman has pointed out, Rossetti was influenced in his editorial strategy by the work of Frederick Gard Fleay, with whom he exchanged several letters about emending Shelley's poetry and whom Rossetti called the "earliest & most systematic of Shelley's emendators" (14 November 1869). Six letters from Rossetti to Fleay, from 17 October 1869-27 February 1870, can be found in the Pforzheimer Collection, along with a MS written by Fleay, titled "On the received text of Shelley's poems." Reiman observes that Rossetti made several emendations first proposed by Fleay in a paper published in The Provincial Magazine for February 1859, and that Fleay proposed in his unpublished MS "changing several words in 'Mont Blanc' to make sure that no lines in that poem remain rhymeless and canceling lines 95-96 of Rosalind and Helen because, he notes, the substance of their meaning appears in subsequent lines [p. 11]" (Romantic Texts and Contexts [Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987] pp. 88-89n.5).


An exemplary Shelley editor and bibliographer, Forman, unfortunately, was not above hoaxing the public (e. g., his fraudulent claim of discovering a new Shelley poem "Lines, Addressed to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, on His Being Appointed Regent" [Reiman and Fraistat, vol. I, pp. 469-80]), or forging bibliographical rarities both on his own and in collusion with Thomas J. Wise, another eminent Shelley bibliographer and scholar.

The story of these forgeries can be found in the following four works: John Carter and Graham Pollard, Letters of Thomas J. Wise to John Henry Wrenn; An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets (London: Constable & Co., Ltd.; New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1934); Wilfred George Partington, Forging Ahead; The True Story of the Upward Progress of Thomas James Wise, Prince of Book Collectors, Bibliographer Extraordinary, and Otherwise (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1939); Further Inquiry into the Guilt of Certain Nineteenth-Century Forgers, ed. Fannie E. Ratchford (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1944); and John Collins, The Two Forgers: A Biography of Harry Buxton Forman & Thomas James Wise (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books, 1992).


Forman's eight-volume and two-volume editions were both published by Reeves & Turner; his 1892 Aldine Edition was published by George Bell & Sons. For a general discussion of Rossetti and Forman as editors, see Reiman, Romantic Texts and Contexts, pp. 86-93.


Shelley Memorials was published in London by Smith, Elder and in Boston by Ticknor and Fields. Relics of Shelley was published by Moxon.


Lady Shelley's hammerlock on Shelley's MSS and her attempts at purifying Shelley's life and work are well illustrated in those of her letters to Richard Garnett published by Thurman in "Letters."


This bequest was actually delivered to the Bodleian in 1893. For a detailed record of the Bodleian's acquisitions of Shelleyan books and manuscripts and their relation to those in other collections, see Barker-Benfield, Shelley's Guitar: A Bicentary Exhibition of Manuscripts, First Editions and Relics of Percy Bysshe Shelley (Oxford: Bodliean Library, 1992) pp. xvi-xxii.


Julius Zupitza and Joseph Schick, "Zu Shelleys Prometheus Unbound," Archiv für das Studium der neuren Sprachen und Litteraturen 102 (1899): 297-3116; 103 (1899): 91-106, 309-34; An Examination of the Shelley Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, ed. C. D. Locock (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1903); André Koszul, Shelley's Prose in the Bodleian Manuscripts (London: Frowde, 1910) and Proserpine and Midas; Two Unpublished Mythological Dramas (London: Humphrey Milford, 1922).


Shelley's Guitar, p. xvii.


Shelley at Work: A Critical Inquiry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956).


See, for example, Reiman's review of Rogers's edition, reprinted in Romantic Texts and Contexts, pp. 41-54. Rogers elaborates his fundamental assumptions in three significant essays: "Shelley's Spelling: Theory and Practice," Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin 16 (1965): 21-25; "The Punctuation of Shelley's Syntax," Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin 17 (1966): 20-30; "Shelley: Texts and Pretexts: The Case of First Editions," Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin 19 (1968): 41-46.


For a more developed discussion of our editorial principles see, Reiman and Fraistat, vol. I, pp. xxix-xxxix.


Reiman and O'Neill, p. 57. Of course, O'Neill himself presents "The Ocean rolls between us" in a fascimile transcription of the prose.


For example, in their commentary to "The Ocean rolls between us," Matthews and Everest observe that "a passage of similar imperfect blank verse occurs at the end of the fourth paragraph of An Address to the Irish People (1812)," which they provide in the form of a poem by way of illustration:

     Oh Ireland!

Thou emerald of the ocean, whose sons

Are generous and brave, whose daughters are

Honourable and frank and fair, thou art the isle

On whose green shores I have desired to see

The standard of liberty erected—a flag of fire—

A beacon at which the world shall light

The torch of Freedom!

As Shelley published it in An Address to the Irish People, the passage appears line-for-line as follows:

Oh! Ireland, thou emerald of the ocean, whose sons are generous and brave, whose daughters are honorable, and frank, and fair; thou art the isle on whose green shores I have desired to see the standard of liberty erected, a flag of fire, a beacon at which the world shall light the torch of Freedom!

p. 4

This kind of transposition from prose to verse is a particularly slippery slope, down which one can slide to near absurdity, as recently demonstrated by William H. Shurr's so-called "discovery" of 498 "new" poems in Emily Dickinson's letters (New Poems of Emily Dickinson [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993]).

Auteur : Neil Fraistat
Titre : The Workshop of Shelley's Poetry
Revue : Romanticism on the Net, Numéro 19, août 2000
URI : http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/005929ar
DOI : 10.7202/005929ar

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