Shelley: An Essay

Shelley: An Essay

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Shelley: An Essay

Shelley: An Essay

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Excerpt

When Francis Thompson's essay on Shelley appeared in The Dublin Review for July, 1908, it had prefixed the following note by Mr. Wilfrid Ward, editor of that time-honoured Roman Catholic quarterly:

"The editor thinks that his readers will welcome this very remarkable posthumous essay in the precise form in which it was found among the papers of its author, the late Mr. Francis Thompson. It lacks, of course, the author's final revision, and may contain a sentence here or there which Mr. Thompson himself would not finally have endorsed without those omis- sions or qualifying phrases which a writer makes or adds before passing his work for publication. Such modifications cannot, however, be satisfactorily made by another hand, and only obvious corrections necessary for literary reasons have been made by the author's literary executor, Mr. Wilfrid Meynell, to whose kindness The Dublin Review is indebted for the offer of the article."

As a result, for the first time in a record of seventy years, The Dublin Review found itself in a second edition which was also speedily exhausted although the demand was by no means satisfied. The first edition in book form with an Introduction by Mr. George Wyndham ( London, 1909) has since been followed by several reissues proving that the general public as well as the believers in a special cult had come to a very genuine appreciation of a piece of prose originally prepared for publication in 1889. At that time it was refused by the same Review which twenty years later under the guidance of another editor accepted it. It is possible that our reprint of the essay as it appeared in The Dublin Review would have been published without prefatory remark as to the new edition had it not been that some liberties were taken when issued in book form which seemed without sufficient warrant. The omitted passages will be found inclosed in brackets, and while they do not materially affect the text leave it, at least, as Francis Thompson wrote it.

On the other hand the Introduction by Mr. Wyndham is open to debate: to say of Thompson, "He is a meteor exhaled from the miasma of mire," may be of interest from a publisher's advertising view-point but can hardly be thought other than mere literary journalese. Whether or not the essay "is the most important contribution to pure Letters written in English during the last twenty years," we may safely leave English critics to decide. That the late Lionel Johnson as well as the living Mr. W. B. Yeats, not to mention Mr. Arthur Symons, are people of some critical importance in their day not yet passed, it will do no harm to the rising fame of Francis Thompson to remember.

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