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5 - ‘Casualty’, Mrs Shelley and Seditious Libel: Cleansing Britain's Most Corrupt Poet of Error

Nora Crook
Affiliation:
Anglia Ruskin University
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Summary

Let us remark that hardly any great poet, certainly no modern one, has been so inaccurately printed as Shelley. Helps to the very necessary revision are in existence, and ought quickly to be used.

William Allingham's observation in his anthology Nightingale Valley (1860), quickly took on a life of its own: ‘I know no works of any great modern poet which need to be more carefully revised for the press than those of Percy Bysshe Shelley’ (‘O. T. D.’, 1867). ‘Certain passages begin to be famous as crucial subjects for emendation; and the master-singer of our modern poets shares with his own masters and models the least enviable proof of fame, – that given by corrupt readings and diverse commentaries’ (Swinburne, 1869). ‘The texts of Shelley's poems are in many cases as defective or corrupt as if he were a classic instead of a modern writer’ (H. S. Salt, 1887). Surprisingly, this last is still just true, if by ‘texts’ one understands ‘edited reading texts’ and ‘many’ is whittled down to ‘quite a few’. It will be less true by the time this is published. But only when the two major collective editions in progress, the Longman and the Johns Hopkins, are complete (as is expected within the next few years) will Salt's pronouncement finally be put to rest.

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Publisher: Pickering & Chatto
First published in: 2014

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