The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh: A Historical Edition

The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh: A Historical Edition

The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh: A Historical Edition

The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh: A Historical Edition

Excerpt

The subtitle of this work, "A Historical Edition," advertises it as different in certain respects from the accustomed aims of a critical edition of an English Renaissance poet, and certainly different from previous editions of Sir Walter Ralegh's poems by John Hannah and Agnes Latham, from whose efforts almost all critical use and subsequent collections of Ralegh's poems have derived. The present work includes materials and findings that have emerged since Latham's second edition (1951), but offers itself also as one solution to the problems in Ralegh's poetic canon and texts which earlier editions, whatever their virtues, tended to obscure. In a dissertation written years ago under Professor William Ringler's direction, I tried to refine Hannah's and Latham's work by applying more rigorously the classical principles of textual criticism which, through his edition of Sir Philip Sidney's poems, Ringler taught so many others to use in textual work on the non-dramatic poetry of the Renaissance. Ringler's achievement remains exemplary, and this edition's revision of his methodology is based less on theoretical objection than on the recognition that a differently circumstanced poet requires a different editorial treatment. In the case of Ralegh's poems, a classical method will, first, in too many instances fail of its professed aim to represent authorial intention, and, second, will produce a misrepresentation, or an underrepresentation, of the historical evidence from which Ralegh's canon and texts must be recovered. If my edition of 1970 is still occasionally cited in discussions of Ralegh poems, this can only be because scholars have sought more detail on textual transmission than Hannah or Latham provide. But neither the accumulation of detail nor the editorial method employed was a solution to the important textual questions that remain to be appreciated.

The latter point was recognized by Marotti 1995: 145, when, in a kind way, he
justifiably criticized my edition as guilty of a certain "historical erasure." (Full citations of
works cited by author and date or short tide are found in the list below, pp. 231–34.)

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