Obrázky stránek

correct among different readings, and then I have chosen the one I myself prefer. I have also with scrupulous exactness attended to the punctuation of every line; and (a minor yet not wholly unimportant point) have made the marginal setting of type throughout the volumes such as to represent the true inter-relations of rhythm and rhyme. The interruption of foot-notes in a page of fine poetry is, I conceive, always some sort of annoyance; and even the numbers or other marks in the text calling attention to notes at a later page come under the same disfavour. Convenient they assuredly are to the tiro or the student: as certainly are they tiresome to the expert. On the whole, it has appeared to me best to remove all notes from the foot of the page to the end of the poem or subdivision, and to give no figures or marks of reference, save only in those cases (distinguished by a figure, 1, 2, &c.) where some conjectural emendation, authorized merely by what I regard as sound critical reasoning, is introduced into the text. My own notes come in mass at the end of the respective volumes: to these, with the aid of the page-reference, the reader can turn whenever he sees in the text the numbers just adverted to.

As to this matter of conjectural emendation—a most dangerous and lethal weapon, but still, I apprehend, a lawful and needful weapon in the hands of a re-editor-I am well aware that I have offended some readers, and perhaps disappointed others. Among friends of high critical qualifications whom I consulted in 1869, some urged me onwards in the path of emendation, and others withheld me. I tended even then more towards lagging behind than towards outstripping my own theoretic standard in this regard; acting very generally on the rule that a conjectural emendation should not be tolerated, unless it is either a stop-gap expedient against a patent and formidable blunder, or else convincing in a very high degree indeed. In the present re-issue, 1878, I have been still more chary of introducing conjectural emendations into the text; partly through my own augmenting sense of their riskiness, partly because critics of the edition of 1870 (some of them deserving and receiving my high regard) have objected, in principle or in detail, to various things which I then conceived myself to be justified in doing. Good or bad, many or few, my conjectural emendations are of course all set forth in the notes, and can be cancelled as errata by any reader who may consider them in that light.

The notes do not aim at being excursive, critical, or explanatory, nor to any large extent even illustrative. Such illustration as they supply is chiefly from Shelley's own writings : mainly the notes profess to be textual, and no more. They specify all modifications of the text' which rest on my own authority, and some even of those which depend upon MSS. or the safest editions. I have no fear of having specified too few minute points in these notes—too many rather.

I have expressed, and must here repeat, my obligations to Mr. Garnett, who, waiving all rights of priority and personal research, freely imparted to me whatever Shelleyan items he had at command, whether MSS., transcripts, or details of any kind elucidating the text of the poems ; including the book containing Charles the First, for permission to use which I am indeed primarily indebted, through Mr. Garnett, to the owner, Sir Percy Shelley. It is a gratification to acknowledge also valuable advice or assistance from Mr. Trelawny, Mr. Browning, Mr. W. Bell Scott, Mr. Swinburne, Mr. Allingham, Mr. C. B. Cayley, Mr. G. S. D. Murray, the writer known as B.V., my brother, and others whose names, with suitable thanks for opportune aid, will be found in my notes. Mr. Trelawny's information has been especially important both for the poems and for the memoir, and commands my most respectful and grateful thanks.

No man is better qualified than a re-editor of Shelley to affirm that authors, editors, and printers, are all fallible. To flatter myself that my edition is free from errors of purpose on my part, or from casual oversights, would be the height of folly, and my best title to detraction. But I can say that the editorial work has been to me a true labour of love, and has been gone through diligently and deliberately. Indeed, the pleasure of having anything to do with Shelley's poems is to myself so great that I should have been my own tormentor had I stinted or slurred work in any particular. I took very great pains with the edition of 1870, and have taken equal oi still greater pains with this of 1878. I have now cancelled, I suppose, a full third of the notes to the former edition, and have introduced a rather larger bulk of new notes ;and the

'Not including, however, small changes of punctuation which make no marked difference of meaning ; nor changes of spelling or printing, such as wrapped " instead of

wrapt," or "linked " instead of "linked." In these respects I have (properly speaking) systematized rather than altered.

As my object in the notes is by no means that of either forcing myself on the reader's attention, or bandying words and arguments with critics who have expressed opinions contrary to mine, I do not take (generally speaking) the trouble of pointing out where I was wrong or right-and since then proved right-in 1870, but I simply cancel whatever is not up to the present level of information, or within the present area for discussion, on the subject.


same, in minor proportion, has been done with the Memoir. This arises from a variety of causes : new information, fresh collation, the examination of MSS., &c.; and indeed every year or month continues to jog and crumble the fabric of editorship in such matters. Also I have in various instances changed my own opinion; and in others, more numerous, have found out for myself, or have gained from Shelleyan critics (especially from Mr. Forman in his recent edition of Shelley in four volumes), some fine point of textual accuracy which had previously eluded me. From all critics and all coöperators I hope to have learned something : the only object worth editing for being that of securing the utmost purity and rationality of text, and so helping to diffuse a knowledge—which is also a love of the glorious poet's works.



OBSTACLES have long existed to my presenting the public with a perfect edition of Shelley's Poems. These being at last happily removed, I hasten to fulfil an important duty,—that of giving the productions of a sublime genius to the world, with all the correctness possible, and of, at the same time, detailing the history of those productions, as they sprang, living and warm, from his heart and brain. I abstain from any remark on the occurrences of his private life, except inasmuch as the passions which they engendered inspired his poetry. This is not the time to relate the truth; and I should reject any colouring of the truth. No account of these events has ever been given at all approaching reality in their details, either as regards himself or others; nor shall I further allude to them than to remark that the errors of action committed by a man as noble and generous as Shelley may, as far as he only is concerned, be fearlessly avowed by those who loved him, in the firm conviction that, were they judged impartially, his character would stand in fairer and brighter light than that of any contemporary. Whatever faults he had ought to find extenuation among his fellows, since they prove him to be human; without them, the exalted nature of his soul would have raised him into something divine.

The qualities that struck any one newly introduced to Shelley were,- First, a gentle and cordial goodness that animated his intercourse with warm affection and helpful sympathy. The other, the eagerness and ardour with which he was attached to the cause of human happiness and improvement; and the fervent eloquence with which he discussed such subjects. His conversation was marked by its happy abundance, and the beautiful language in which he clothed his poetic ideas and philosophical notions. To defecate life of its misery and its evil was the ruling passion on his soul; he dedicated to it every

power of his mind, every pulsation of his heart. He looked on political freedom as the direct agent to effect the happiness of mankind; and thus any new-sprung hope of liberty inspired a joy and an exultation more intense and wild than he could have felt for any personal advantage. Those who have never experienced the workings of passion on general and unselfish subjects cannot understand this; and it must be difficult of comprehension to the younger generation rising around, since they cannot remember the scorn and hatred with which the partisans of reform were regarded some few years ago, nor the persecutions to which they were exposed. He had been from youth the victim of the state of feeling inspired by the reaction of the French Revolution; and believing firmly in the justice and excellence of his views, it cannot be wondered that a nature as sensitive, as impetuous, and as generous, as his, should put its whole force into the attempt to alleviate for others the evils of those systems from which he had himself suffered. Many advantages attended his birth; he spurned them all when balanced with what he considered his duties. He was generous to imprudence, devoted to heroism.

These characteristics breathe throughout his poetry. The struggle for human weal; the resolution firm to martyrdom; the impetuous pursuit, the glad triumph in good; the determination not to despair ;—such were the features that marked those of his works which he regarded with most complacency, as sustained by a lofty subject and useful aim.

In addition to these, his poems may be divided into two classes,-the purely imaginative, and those which sprang from the emotions of his heart. Among the former may be classed the Witch of Atlas, Adonais, and his latest composition, left imperfect, the Triumph of Life. In the first of these particularly he gave the reins to his fancy, and luxuriated in every idea as it rose ; in all there is that sense of mystery which formed an essential portion of his perception of life-a clinging to the subtler inner spirit, rather than to the outward form—a curious and metaphysical anatomy of human passion and perception.

The second class is, of course, the more popular, as appealing at once to emotions common to us all. Some of these rest on the passion of love ; others on grief and despondency; others on the sentiments inspired by natural objects. Shelley's conception of love was exalted, absorbing, allied to all that is purest and noblest in our nature, and warmed by earnest passion; such it appears when he gave it a voice in verse. Yet he was usually

« PředchozíPokračovat »