The Poetical Works of Walter Savage Landor - Vol. 1

The Poetical Works of Walter Savage Landor - Vol. 1

The Poetical Works of Walter Savage Landor - Vol. 1

The Poetical Works of Walter Savage Landor - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Landor's English poems are being printed, in this edition of his Works, for the most part as they were first published during his lifetime or after his death at Florence in September, 1864. In a few cases, for reasons which will be stated, a version later than the earliest is chosen as the text preferred; but whether one or the other method be adopted, variants are recorded either on the page where they occur or, if so extensive as to render that plan inconvenient, they will be found at the end of the volume. Whatever objections are felt to thus relying so much on first editions, that is what Swinburne recommended as the best way of dealing with Landor's work. To judge what might sometimes be lost by always adopting exactly the opposite course let the reader turn to a little poem (ii. 434) in which Landor referred to Dante of Maiano and the more illustrious author of La Divina Commedia--"the diviner Alighieri" is the phrase as first printed. Barely a dozen years after Landor's death this was transformed into "the diviner Alfieri". Amazing as it was, the blunder has always escaped notice.

Poems have before now been attributed to the author of Gebir which were certainly not written by him. Of course they have no place in these volumes. There are a few others firmly believed by not inexpert critics to be his, but without positive proof that he wrote them. They are likewise excluded.

Most of the poems rejected on the grounds just indicated were found in periodicals, in books by other authors, or on printed leaflets. In one notable instance two of them, said to be copied from a manuscript, in Landor's handwriting, were published in an American magazine; and a facsimile reproduction of the manuscript was given as evidence that Landor was really the author. Any one capable of recognizing his style would have suspected a deception--innocent or deliberate; and the script of the fallacious illustration was not Landor's.

With regard to poems undoubtedly his but only preserved in his autograph manuscript, it has not been thought proper to ignore opinions he expressed in the preface to a book of poetry published in 1831. Only the wretchedest of poets, he declared, would wish all they ever wrote to be remembered. He strongly condemned the exhumation of mere garbage from the pens of Swift and Dryden. He hoped that much of what he had written in youth or with equal idleness afterward would never be raked together for publication. Such an inhibition need not be enough to prevent some unpublished manuscripts being printed. It is here cited, however, as not unlikely to serve, with other and perhaps . . .

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