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Romanticism on the Net

Numéro 22, mai 2001

Direction : Michael Eberle-Sinatra (directeur)

Éditeur : Université de Montréal

ISSN : 1467-1255 (numérique)

DOI : 10.7202/005973ar

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Alan M. Weinberg, ed., The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts Volume XXII: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Part One (Bodleian MS. Shelley adds. d. 6); Part Two (Bodleian Shelley adds. c. 5). New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1997. ISBN: 0815311575. Price: US$375.Donald H. Reiman and Michael O'Neill, eds., Fair-Copy Manuscripts of Shelley's Poems in European and American Libraries. The Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics: Percy Bysshe Shelley Volume VIII. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1997. ISBN: 0815311516. Price: US$260.

Jack Donovan

University of York


1

The nearly 800 pages of Volume XXII of the Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts bring the series to a close, apart from the index volume which at the present time of writing has yet to appear. The two parts into which the material of Volume XXII is divided have required considerably different editorial treatment. The editing of the notebook (MS Shelley adds. d. 6) into which Mary W. Shelley transcribed copies of her late husband's prose works in a legible hand is an altogether less arduous affair than that required by the papers grouped in the volume that forms Part II. Alan Weinberg's labours in presenting and commenting upon the number and variety of MSS contained in the box of miscellaneous papers designated as MS. Shelley adds. c. 5 is likened by the general editor Donald H. Reiman to "sorting and packing the contents of medicine cabinets and desk drawers". And in common with the usual contents of such receptacles the items in box c. 5 derive from various sources and sort oddly with their fellows.

2

Almost all the surviving pages of the d. 6 notebook are devoted to MWS's transcription of the holograph MS of the uncompleted A Philosophical View of Reform. Little else in the notebook (nearly 2/3 of its pages have been removed) survives intact. The greater part of the transcriptions appear to have been made in 1822-23 with the intention of preparing for publication a companion-volume to Posthumous Poems (1824); but when that volume of poems was withdrawn under menaces from Sir Timothy Shelley, the project for a collection of PBS's prose was abandoned. Some few transcriptions, which follow APVR in the notebook, would appear to have been made much later, in 1839. A detailed table of contents and the close scrutiny of the surviving stubs of torn-out pages provide the basis for some painstaking editorial reconstruction of the missing transcriptions. Obviously, the principal feature of the notebook to command attention is MWS's transcription of PBS's unfinished draft of APVR, his most substantial political essay, which dates from the period late 1819 to early 1820. As Weinberg points out, her transcription may fairly be regarded as the first 'edition' of the work—in the sense that it represents her efforts to recover from an unfinished and unrevised source a text which she intended to print as part of a volume of PBS's prose. Her attempt to produce a reading text, though far from perfectly consistent with what would now be regarded as acceptable editorial practice, constitutes an important document for any future project to establish an edition of APVR. Weinberg accompanies his transcription of hers with a commentary the chief feature of which is a collation with PBS's holograph draft now in the Pforzheimer collection and transcribed by Donald H. Reiman in Shelley and His Circle VI 962-1065.

3

MS Shelley adds. c. 5 is a collection of documents of various dates largely in the hand of MWS which were included in the gift of MSS by Sir John Shelley-Rolls to the Bodleian Library in 1946. The most important of the sixteen items would seem to be: a series of inserts intended for The Fields of Fancy, the original version of MWS's novella Mathilda; a fair copy in MWS's hand, continued in PBS's, of the earlier portion of his tale The Coliseum; the surviving MS of the 'Fragment of a Romance'(The Assassins) which is written by both the Shelleys in a mixture of fair-copy and draft and which MWS published in edited form in Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments (1840). MWS's transcription, apparently from dictation in summer 1817, of PBS's translation of about the first third of Aeschylus's Prometheus Chained is here published in its entirety for the first time, as is their joint translation made in early April 1821 of Alexander Ypsilanti's "Cry of War to the Greeks". A fair draft in PBS's hand of the sonnet that MWS printed in Posthumous Poems (1824) and where she gave it the title that it bears in this MS, 'Political Greatness', is the most interesting of the MSS of PBS's poetry among the c. 5 MSS. Of the prose MSS this distinction is perhaps to be shared between the translation of Aeschylus and the 11 pages of notes towards a biography of PBS that MWS made shortly after his death. The incidents from PBS's early life at home and at school that she records evidently derive from the poet himself; they have become a staple of his biography owing to their incorporation after MWS's death into the Preface and early chapters of T. J. Hogg's Life of Shelley (1858). In his textual commentary on MWS's "Life of Shelley" Weinberg demonstrates in precise detail the degree to which Hogg altered his source in adapting it and how the character of her brief, disjointed and evidently deeply pained effort at memorializing her husband is deformed by Hogg's re-presentation of her material. Here, as else where in these two substantial volumes, Weinberg's commentaries are informed, judicious and enlightening.

4

Fair-Copy Manuscripts of Shelley's Poems contains a generous selection of facsimiles and transcriptions with accompanying commentaries; it aims "to include as many as possible of the scattered poetic holograph MSS of Percy Bysshe Shelley (PBS) that were not otherwise available in facsimile—and might not appear later—in Shelley and His Circle (SC) or in another volume of either The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts (BSM) or The Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics (MYR)" (vii). The "fair-copy" of the title comprehends documents that may have been intended as "private draft, confidential safe-keeping copy, or public poem" (xxviii); the editors have also brought together a few of PBS's rough-draft MSS in order "to show ... the full range of his various holograph documents" (xxvii). A fair draft of Keats's "Robin Hood", set down on a bifolium which was originally attached to PBS's "To the Nile", is also included. The result is that, of all the volumes in the first two of the three series that are mentioned above, none is so thoroughly an editorial compilation as this one; nor is any so miscellaneous. But, so far from being a fault, the very breadth and variety of the choice of MSS which follow from such a set of criteria for inclusion are what creates the exceptional interest of this expertly-produced collection.

5

The MSS that are gathered together range across the greater part of PBS's writing life—from the satiric doggerel of the verse letter that he addressed from Field Place in spring 1811 to his former music teacher Edward Fergus Graham, up to the brilliantly finished, and meticulously-transcribed, late lyrics that he confided to Jane Williams at intervals over the year before he died. The editors intend their work to serve as a manual or textbook of primary resort for all interested in the description, analysis and evaluation of "fair copies" of Shelley's poems and of poetic "fair copies" generally. The quotation-marks, indispensible in this case, mean to emphasise that the term encompasses a greater variety of instances than is allowed for by the dictionary definition: "matter transcribed or reproduced after final correction" (The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). And indeed, beyond its specific concern with Shelley's MSS, the volume is a systematic opening-out of that rule of thumb formulation in order to display the potential for meaning of any of the various states of a given poem that may properly be considered as "fair copy". This is an exercise that aims both to further understanding of the developmental process by which poems, lyric poems in particular, come into being and attain a condition that authorial decision or editorial tradition comes to regard as the definitive one, but also of the ways in which they continue to live multiple and varied existences in texts which tenaciously retain their individual character and value even when they possess little or no author-derived authenticity of their own. Such is the case, for example, of the two copies of "To the Lord Chancellor" in MWS's hand which she gave to friends, apparently during the 1820s and 1830s, and on which the commentaries provided by Reiman and O'Neill are instructive.

6

Those carrying the weightiest textual significance are probably the "safe-keeping copies" of "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" in MWS's hand and "Mont Blanc" in PBS's that are contained in the Scrope Davies notebook, which was sensationally discovered in a bank vault in 1976, and where the latter poem is entitled "Scene—Pont Pellissier in the vale of Servox". As circumstances conspired to render these copies unavailable to PBS when (on returning to England from Switzerland where the poems were drafted) he wished to print them, he was obliged to take up his working drafts again and finish new versions of each. The result is that, as Michael O'Neill remarks of "Mont Blanc", "we are given a rare opportunity of watching one of our greatest poets writing one of his greatest poems twice" (xiv). Mutatis mutandis, the same is true of the two finished versions of "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty". Inspection of the punctuation and, in a lesser degree, the capitalization of one of Shelley's "safe-keeping" autographs is intriguing, whether of "Mont Blanc" or another. Not intended to be printed immediately from the copy in question, such a text is both less explicitly precise as a reading copy than a copy prepared for the press, which needs to anticipate and guard against unwanted ambiguity and misprision, and yet a more intimately private expression of the writer's relation to his work just because of the minimal character of its apparatus of comprehension, the sparseness with which its pauses are marked especially hinting at a more instinctive and unspecified connection to the author's ear and mind than the conventions of print allow. Letters squeezed and bent at the edge of the page, spelling both idiosyncratic and inconsistent, frank misspellings and slips of the pen, false starts and blots and smears— all testify to a copy's status as a phase in the poem's formation, a moment of variously imperfect attention, and a token of the physical conditions of its creation, in particular by hand-cut pen which must be regularly dipped in ink. Is all this no more than material limitation, accident, incompletion, incorrection? Or is there in the nature of such a copy some willed self-restraint from definition, a hesitation to close down the possibilities of a text apprehended by the author as still in a condition of becoming? Cut and dried answers to such questions rarely emerge from the texts that are presented here; instead they persist as potential, as hypotheses of reading in what is both a sophisticated and demanding exercise but also one which opens rewarding ways to the attentive reader.

7

Examples abound: a few instances will show the kind and variety of interest that the volume elicits. The extraordinary rapidity of the lyric in four stanzas of six-syllable lines beginning "The waters are flashing", which MWS published in Posthumous Poems (1824) as "The Fugitives", is enhanced in PBS's autograph by the dashes that function as the principal stops—and which seem to work in opposition to the extensive use of rich rhymes ("rolling/tolling"). The minimal pointing throughout, as against the slowing-down brought about by the more conventional and systematic punctuation of the first printing, operates in the same way. The letter of 14 February 1812 to Elizabeth Hitchener which, in the midst of an invitation to her to join Percy and Harriet Shelley in Ireland that summer, breaks into an impassioned address to Ocean as instrument of that Time which must inevitably erase the tyranny to which Ireland is subject, is another intriguing case. Editors, including Matthews and Everest (i 208-10), have set out this passage (which was reworked for Queen Mab ix 23-37) as imperfect blank verse: just how "ticklish" a decision is involved in the presentation of this "poem" can be estimated by examining the facsimile of the letter in which the passage occurs.

8

On occasion details of one of the fair-copy MS can seem to give grounds for emending a text as established by editorial consensus. A case in point is that of the MS of lines 167-205 of "Lines Written among the Euganean Hills" which PBS sent to Charles Ollier from Italy to be inserted into the poem when it appeared in Rosalind and Helen, A Modern Eclogue; With Other Poems (1819). The insert is introduced by the key: "after the lines From thy dust shall nations spring/With more kindly blossoming". Because these two lines read in the Rosalind and Helen volume: "From your dust new nations spring/With more kindly blossoming", editors (including Forman 1880 (i 364) and Matthews and Everest (ii 430, 436)) have inferred that Shelley sent the MS of the additional lines separately from the main body of the MS and misquoted lines 165-6 from memory; or, it can be conjectured, copied them from an earlier draft which had been altered in the fair copy intended for the printer—the only surviving fragment of which is a (somewhat untidy) transcription by MWS (see MYR iii 113-20). Donald Reiman here challenges the received view on two grounds: that PBS probably had the rest of the fair copy MS before him when he composed the additional lines and that in any case the alteration from From your dust to From thy dust in the key may well intend to correct that fair copy, PBS realising belatedly that the address in the poem is singular—i.e., in the context, to the city of Venice alone. Another "ticklish" decision is involved here. Whether PBS sent the insertion separately or together with the MS of the rest of the poem seems on the available evidence not possible to establish certainly; but that thy intends to correct a previous reference by restricting it to Venice alone appears unlikely, as the poem groups Venice together with other Italian cities from line 156, addressing them in the second person plural in line 163, so that the your of line 165 is grammatically consistent with the preceding passage. If I remain unpersuaded by Reiman's hypothesis, however, I recognise the need to question a received view, on the basis of the close consideration of an important textual witness, which he makes here.

9

The inclusion of a few of the more coherent and legible of PBS's drafts provides a contrast with the fair copies, showing just how little difference there can be between a clean draft and a rough fair copy. The designation "fair" may arise from the use to which a MS has been put, or was intended to be put, or from its relation to others states of a text, as well as indicating its physical characteristics merely. How, for example, to describe these verses written in pencil on the back endpaper of the second of three bound volumes of PBS's edition of Euripides?

An archer stood upon the Tower of Babel

And bent his bow against the rising moon

There sate the brother of the murdered Abel

And grinned a wicked smile upon the loon

Under his arm, bound with the bloody cable

The [?thong]

The clear and legible state of the text inscribed on the endpaper may perhaps serve as a clue that PBS had finished the lines in his head before setting them down. Hogg (Life, ed. H. Wolf 1933, i 84-6) recalls his friend's habit of reading "in season and out of season, at table, in bed, and especially during a walk". Perhaps on some such unseasonable occasion he conceived these strange verses before jotting them onto a blank space conveniently to hand—in what Hogg refers to as his "pocket edition" of Euripides and which, Michael O'Neill points out, is probably the same edition as this one. If this was in 1820, the likely date of "Autumn: A Dirge" which is drafted more roughly on blank pages towards the beginning of the volume, then Shelley imagined these bizarre images a year or so before he wrote the great closing stanza of Adonais in early summer 1821; though it is also possible that he wrote them after the elegy. In either case, that defining confrontation between a representative human figure and a celestial body or bodies with which he concludes Adonais, as well as others among his major poems, is here burlesqued in lines that arrest and surprise, but also disconcert. Does the impulse to shoot at the heavens (ad astra per aspera) that energises some of his grandest poetic statements in this instance show us a glimpse of its other, its ludicrous and sarcastic, side? And is this an instance of that deflating poetic self-awareness that he was certainly capable of? Speculation of this kind may be the fitting response to these intriguing verses in the makeshift setting from which their author was never himself to retrieve them.

10

Exquisite lyrics exquisitely transcribed for a young woman acquaintance onto the blank pages of The Literary Pocket-Book for 1819 (280-93); the interesting variations to which a few lines (the variously-titled "I arise from dreams of thee") are subject when privately circulated in MS copies (329-49); the personal messages that accompany the greater number of the poems given to Jane Williams in 1822 . . . this volume is a cornucopia for the student of Shelley's shorter poems and for the description, illustration and discussion of the textual condition of the lyric in the Romantic period. Typically brief, and so able to be transcribed with relative ease and speed, copies might multiply over a period of months or even years. These show the variation that creative decision, but also the accidents of material and commercial circumstances, called into being. And because of the lyric's privileged role in sentimental attachments, as well as the social rituals of friendship and the practice of singing for the entertainment of a private gathering, the complex relations of a specific instance of the mode in its several states enter as significant factors in the determination of its 'meaning'. Considerations such as these complicate the typical commentaries that we make according to habits acquired through the study of printed texts regarded as fixed in their particulars. Our criticism and our teaching would benefit from a larger awareness of the issues that this volume raises, and that Michael O'Neill's fine introduction—"Splendour among Shadows: Shelley's Artistry"—ably illustrates for many of the texts included.

11

No volume in either the BSM or the MYR series offers the variety of pleasure and instruction that this one does; nor does any illustrate by such a range of examples so meticulously presented the problems and challenges raised by the manuscript-study of the lyrics of the Romantic period. It reminds us forcefully that we should never hear or read the term "fair copy" without mentally supplying quotation-marks, and never regard such a copy merely as the final one before print, but rather as a point of departure for further investigation.


Auteur : Jack Donovan
Ouvrages recensés : Alan M. Weinberg, ed., The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts Volume XXII: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Part One (Bodleian MS. Shelley adds. d. 6); Part Two (Bodleian Shelley adds. c. 5). New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1997. ISBN: 0815311575. Price: US$375.
 Donald H. Reiman and Michael O'Neill, eds., Fair-Copy Manuscripts of Shelley's Poems in European and American Libraries. The Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics: Percy Bysshe Shelley Volume VIII. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1997. ISBN: 0815311516. Price: US$260.
Revue : Romanticism on the Net, Numéro 22, mai 2001
URI : http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/005973ar
DOI : 10.7202/005973ar

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