Draft Variants from the Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts and the New Edition of Laon and Cythna in The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Volume III



Dedication  Canto First  Canto Second  Canto Fifth  Canto Sixth

Canto Seventh  Canto Eighth  Canto Ninth  Canto Tenth  Canto Eleventh  Canto Twelfth

The following article comprises an extensive register of the known draft manuscript (hereafter MS; plural MSS) variants, both of discrete instances of punctuation and diction and of extended descriptive passages either canceled or abandoned, for Percy Shelley’s longest poem, his romance-epic Laon and Cythna (L&C; revised and reissued as The Revolt of Islam [RofI]).  This is not a complete record of draft variants; it does not include every repeated cancellation, stray letter, or indecipherable word or phrase in these MSS.  But it does reproduce large sections of Shelley’s draft material for L&C in an attempt to trace his thought process and the evolution of his language, imagery, and political, social, and philosophical ideas as he drafted the poem’s elaborate frame in the first and last cantos and the narrative in the internal cantos.  It is being published on Romantic Circles simultaneously with the publication of L&C in volume III of The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley (CPPBS) and is intended to assist textually-inclined scholars of Shelley’s verse who would benefit from consulting such a record of variants for the poem.  The copy-text of L&C from which the collational variants constitute departures is the text of the poem presented in CPPBS III. 

          When, some years ago, I began the task of editing L&C for CPPBS III, the plan called for me to examine the surviving MSS of the poem closely both as an aid in preparing the poem’s text and in writing the commentary that would accompany it.  A large quantity of the MSS for this poem, especially those from the first draft, have survived; indeed, there are more extant MSS for L&C than for any other poem by Shelley, including intermediate fair copy of various sections as well as large portions of the printer’s copy for the prose Preface and for Canto IX (in Shelley’s day, press-copy MSS were usually destroyed at the printing house after a work had been typeset).

          During two separate summer journeys, I had the opportunity of spending several months at the Bodleian Library of Oxford University, the principal repository of MSS relating to L&C, which enabled me to build upon the work of the late Tatsuo Tokoo (who had edited two volumes of the Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts [BSM] series focused principally upon transcripts of L&C MSS) and Steven E. Jones (who edited a third BSM volume focused on L&C that included Shelley’s draft notebook for more than half of the poem).  Benefiting from the generous amount of time I was fortunate to devote to scrutinizing these MSS enabled me to fill in some blanks, offer an occasional alternative reading to those put forward by my predecessors, and make a few corrections to Tokoo’s and Jones’s pioneering transcriptions (all such emendations are recorded in the collation tables).  Working with the MSS also reinforced for me the value of examining Shelley’s method of composition; the many lengthy canceled passages and abandoned false starts in the draft MSS afforded an instructive glimpse into the twists and turns undertaken by a young poet on the threshold of entering his most productive period, struggling to create a poem of epic length and consequence. 

          I soon discovered that many of the most suggestive and revealing insights I gained into L&C’s structure and theme derived from the passages Shelley had rejected, for they enabled me to reconstruct his intentions and pointed tantalizingly to roads that he had considered but not taken as he composed his poem.  Perhaps most significant were numerous extensive canceled and abandoned portions of the draft for cantos VIII and X, the two cantos that Shelley was compelled to alter most drastically to secure his publisher Charles Ollier’s consent to reissue L&C in its censored version, RofI.  Some of these showed the poet struggling to harness deep personal emotions—anger at his enemies; anguish at the denial of custody of his children by Harriet Westbrook Shelley—in the service of L&C’s didactic message, while others appeared to show him pre-emptively diluting some of the poem’s most pointed anti-religious and politically subversive passages, indicating that he probably anticipated some of the negative reactions which, in the event, L&C incited. 

          A noteworthy example occurs at Canto X, stanza xlv, line 399 of the poem.  In one of the darkest passages of L&C, Laon recounts how the priests encourage the surviving inhabitants of the Golden City, terrified by the plague that has ravaged them, to propitiate their wrathful god by burning sacrificial victims at the stake (especially Laon and Cythna, if they can be found).  In the draft, Laon recounts how “they [the fear-mongering priests] said that God was waiting │To see his enemies writhe & burn & bleed.”  In L&C the first of these lines is printed as “they said their God was waiting[.]”  This change is surely intended to deflect direct ostracism of the Christian god onto the more narrowly defined god of Roman Catholicism, since the priests, led by the “Iberian priest” who seals Laon and Cythna’s grim fate, are by implication Catholic (and some, given the location in the Levant, perhaps Greek Orthodox); Shelley thus places the onus of his hostility upon Rome and Constantinople, something which, he may have reasoned, communicants of the Reformed Church of England would not find especially objectionable.  (He similarly targets focused subsets of Christianity elsewhere in the poem, though it is clear his ultimate aim is to indict the entire faith as an institutional entity.)  Ironically, this line underwent further revision in RofI, to “they said their god,” the shift to lower-case perhaps suggesting that Ollier wanted to attenuate the line even more, transforming it into nothing more than an indictment of various kinds of priests’ false gods rather than an attack upon British readers’ true God.

          Even examining Shelley’s familiar lack of punctuation in his draft MSS (which the reader of the collation tables will encounter frequently) occasionally yielded significant insights into L&C’s composition, since Shelley often distinguished in his drafts between intended commas, semi-colons, and full stops by the presence or absence of a different form of pointing such as a series of ellipses or a dash.  For instance, at many points in the first draft of L&C where he wrote a sequence of ellipses at the end of a line, the published poem bears a full stop in the form of a period or occasionally an exclamation point.  Similarly, the hurried long dashes that frequently stand in for pointing at the end of lines of poetic draft often became semi-colons in the published version.  And those junctures in the printed volume that contain a comma used for rhetorical effect rather than grammatical function are usually left unpointed in the drafts.  Although Shelley engaged in these practices far too inconsistently for them to constitute a code denoting a full-fledged alternative system of punctuation in the drafts, in several cases involving cruxes of pointing (though never in the absence of other corroborating evidence), such junctures in the poem’s draft MSS helped determine the final version of the text of L&C in CPPBS III.

          From the first, realizing how fundamentally they had influenced my understanding of Shelley’s aim and method in writing L&C, I compiled an extensive list of the variants present in the draft MSS.  Given its nature and extent, it soon became apparent that this material could not be entirely included in volume III of CPPBS.  The series General Editors—Donald H. Reiman, Neil Fraistat, and Nora Crook—agreed that the primary collations at the foot of the text pages of L&C in the book should include the (relatively infrequent) instances of an entirely different word or phrase that Shelley had rejected but not canceled in the MSS, affording interested readers a fascinating snapshot of Shelley’s process of revision as he wrote out intermediate and fair/press copies of his work (these uncanceled MS variants are also reproduced in the collation tables).  The Editors additionally encouraged me to discuss some of the longer abandoned MS passages in entries included at the appropriate points in my commentary for the published poem in volume III.  But this still left a mass of potentially useful material, and collectively we arrived at the expedient of publishing this record online, in its entirety, as an adjunct to CPPBS III and an ancillary tool for the student of L&C.  Along with the primary collations, commentary, supplements, historical collations, and appendixes accompanying L&C in volume III, readers can learn for themselves how Shelley’s longest poem took shape if they compare these discarded variants with the corresponding sections of the published poem.  (Readers can easily identify where these variants were originally meant to appear in the poem’s narrative since they are keyed, canto by canto, to the published poem’s line numbers as given in CPPBS volume III.)  Those who perform this experiment may well arrive at conclusions different from those I deduce in CPPBS III, but such disagreement in itself could help future researchers further illuminate some of the poem’s many challenging and difficult cruxes of meaning.

          Despite the title of this article, it has been thought appropriate to include complete variants from all surviving fair- and press-copy MSS of L&C to supplement the extensive variants included from the surviving early drafts.  The result, I hope, is an easily accessible record of all significant contents from all known surviving MSS of L&C.  A heretofore undiscovered addition to these MSS, and hence to the recorded variants in the collation tables, is the leaf of (probable first) draft for two stanzas of Canto III of the poem, included in a recent bequest of material to the Bodleian Library and identified by Theodora Boorman of the Bodleian in the summer of 2009 as coming from a previously unknown MS notebook; it represents the first known extant MS for any stage of Canto III.  (See “Bod7” in the list of “Shelfmarks and Contents of MSS of L&C,” below.)  Images of the leaf are reproduced as the frontispiece to Volume III of CPPBS; the leaf is transcribed and analyzed in Supplement 13 in the section of Supplements to L&C on pages 935-41 of volume III.

          Along with the largest repository of L&C MSS at the Bodleian Library, significant portions of one stage or another of the poem’s MSS are housed at the Pforzheimer Library, and others are scattered amongst several other libraries in the United States and the United Kingdom.  The following list, which contains the shelfmarks, location, contents of each MS, and the abbreviations used in assembling the collations, has been adapted to the purposes of this article from the section on “Manuscripts for L&C/RofI” in CPPBS III, pages 555-61.

Abbreviations List of Libraries Containing MSS of L&C

These abbreviations constitute the sigla used to denote the location of the MSS containing the  variants listed in the collation tables.

Bod            The Bodleian Library, Oxford University

BL              British Library

Harv           Houghton Library, Harvard University

NLS           National Library of Scotland

Pfz              Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, New York Public Library

TCC           Trinity College, Cambridge

TCU           Texas Christian University

Tx               Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin

Shelfmarks and Contents of MSS of L&C

This list contains the shelfmarks used by the above libraries to designate the MSS containing L&C material, and describes the nature and extent of the material—and its corresponding location within the body of the published version of L&C.  Published transcriptions of these MSS in the BSM and Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics (MYR) facsimile series, both published by Garland Press, and in the Shelley and His Circle (SC) catalogue edition published by Harvard University Press are also noted.  Following the practice in CPPBS III, L&C passages are designated by the canto number in capitalized Roman numerals, followed by the stanza number in lower-case Roman numerals, then by line number(s) in Arabic numbers (e.g., VI.xix.117-24).  Following the practice of CPPBS III and the first edition, the verse Dedication to Mary Shelley is referenced exclusively by Arabic numerals for both stanza and line number(s) (e.g., 2.16-18).

MSS in the Bodleian Library

Bod            Bod. MS. Shelley adds. e. 10 contains first or rough drafts of L&C V.xix-XII.xxxi.273 (by far the largest quantity of surviving first drafts of L&C).  It was transcribed and edited as BSM  XVII (“Drafts for Laon and Cythna, Cantos V-XII”) by Steven E. Jones in 1994.

Bod2          Bod. MS. Shelley adds. e. 19 includes fair draft of seven (and part of an eighth) discarded stanzas that comprise the original opening to Canto I; intermediate fair copy of another abandoned stanza originally intended to appear between the published I.iv and I.v; and intermediate fair draft of I.i.1-viii.70 as well as rough draft of I.viii.71-xxv.219, lix.523-lx.540, and II.i.1-xxxvii.327.  It was transcribed and edited (along with Bod5, below) as BSM XIII (“Drafts for Laon and Cythna”) by Tatsuo Tokoo in 1992.

Bod3          Bod. MS. Shelley adds. c. 4, fol. 2 and adds. c. 4, fol. 185 verso (both are loose sheets also transcribed in BSM XIII) contain, respectively, draft of I.ii-iii and of II.xxxvii; adds. c. 4, fol. 3 (transcribed by Tokoo in BSM VIII: see next item) is a leaf that holds press copy for IX.iii.24-vi.49.

Bod4          Bod. MS. Shelley d.3 includes an intermediate fair copy of L&C, vii-x.83, xxiii.201-xli.365, xliv.392-l.446, and liii.474-lix.526; press copy for the prose Preface to L&C; and press copy for the verse Dedication to Mary Shelley, 1.1-3.20 and 11.95-14.126.  It was transcribed and edited by Tatsuo Tokoo as BSM VIII in 1988.

Bod5          Bod. MS. Shelley adds. e. 14 (transcribed in BSM XIII; see Bod2, above) contains rough drafts and a few intermediate drafts of the verse Dedication to Mary Shelley, stanzas 1-14, as well as a probable early version of L&C XII.xiv.119-20.

Bod6          Bod. MS. Shelley adds. e. 16, transcribed and edited as BSM XI (“The Geneva Notebook of Percy Bysshe Shelley”) by Michael Erkelenz in 1992, contains a large portion of VII.xxxvi that was originally intended as a stanza of PBS’s fragment on the emperor Otho.  PBS canceled this passage in the notebook and appears to have torn a portion of the stanza from this leaf.  See BSM XI, 50-51, 190-91.

Bod7          This newest addition to the known MSS of L&C, now in the Bodleian Library, consists of a single leaf of what is likely the first draft of; it almost certainly derives from a previously unknown MS notebook that may have contained continuous draft of L&C II.xxxviii-V.xviii, a notebook which remains lost except for this new leaf.  The leaf is included in a box of papers that, while cataloguing of its contents proceeds, bears the temporary Bodleian shelfmark CMD 6231 (Uncatalogued Harcourt Additional Papers box 11/1).

MSS at Other Institutions

1.   The Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, New York Public Library:

Several fragments of L&C survive in the Shelley and His Circle (SC) holdings at Pfz.  The contents of the Pfz MSS of L&C include holograph fragments transcribed and analyzed in three separate volumes of SC.  They include:

  •     intermediate fair copy of I.iii.25-v.45 and a canceled stanza (SC 391: see SC V, pages 170-82)
  •     intermediate fair copy of I.xiii.115-xix.171 (SC 783: see SC IX, 256-70)
  •     intermediate fair copy of I.l.447-liii.473 (SC 576: see SC VII, 74-76)
  •     press copy of IX.i.1-iii.23 (SC 577: see SC VII, 76-80)
  •     press copy of IX.xviii.158-xx.181 (SC 392: see SC V, 182-84)
  •     press copy of IX.xxi-xxiii (SC 393: see SC V, 184-89)

2.  Harv MS. Eng. 258.3 (the “smaller Silsbee” notebook in the Houghton Library) contains intermediate draft of L&C Dedication 1.1 and draft of Dedication 11.99.  The notebook was transcribed and edited by Donald H. Reiman as MYR V (“The Harvard Shelley Poetic Manuscripts . . . ”) in 1991.

3.  BL Ashley MS. A4048 contains intermediate fair copy of I.vii.

4.  NLS MS. 3219, fol. 10 contains intermediate fair copy of I.xx.172-75 and I.xxi.187-89.

5.  Tx contains press copy of IX.ix.78-xii.103. Tx also contains the copy of RofI given by Shelley to George William Tighe and Lady Mount Cashell, which includes extensive markings and annotations in Shelley’s autograph, including a correction to II.xxxvii.326 that the edition of L&C in CPPBS III is the first to print according to Shelley’s wishes.  The siglum for this association copy of L&C in the collations below is “Tx/MtC[.]”

6.  TCC MS. Cullum P175 contains press copy of IX.xv.132-xviii.157.

7.  TCU (W. L. Lewis Collection) contains press copy of IX.xxiii.208-xxix.259.

Tokoo reproduced and transcribed the fragments at BL, NLS, Tx, TCC, and TCU in Appendix B of BSM VIII, pages 151-99.

Print Editions Included in the Primary Collation Tables

1817 and 1818     Laon and Cythna; or, The Revolution of the Golden City: A Vision of the Nineteenth Century in the Stanza of Spenser (1817; revised and reissued in 1818 as The Revolt of Islam)

1829           The Poetical Works of Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats [ed. Cyrus Redding]. Paris: A. & W. Galignani, 1829.

1834           The Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, with His Life. 2 vols. London: John Ascham, 1834.

1839           The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Mrs. Shelley. 4 vols. London: Edward Moxon, 1839.

1840           The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Mrs. Shelley. London: Edward Moxon, 1840 (pub. Nov. 1839; 1840 on printed title page).

Conventions Adopted in the Collation Tables

My descriptions of the layout, placement, spacing, overstrikes, cancellations, and writing implement used (pen or pencil) are given in italics to distinguish them from the actual contents of the MSS.

          Conjectural transcriptions of contents are placed in square brackets; the presence of a question mark preceding the bracketed word or letters indicates a substantial degree of uncertainty as to the reading.  Indecipherable material within larger transcribed units is denoted by empty square brackets approximating the length of the illegible word or phrase.

          Ampersands in the MSS have not been collated as variants from “and” except where they form part of a larger phrase containing other, significant variants in punctuation, orthography, or diction.

          Variant versions of the same line on different pages are denoted by the MS siglum followed by a hyphen and the MS page number, e.g., Bod2-46 and Bod2-47.

          Variant versions of the same line occurring on one page are denoted by the MS siglum followed by a hyphen, the MS page number, and superscripted numbers indicating the variants’ order of appearance on the page, e.g., Bod2-541 and Bod2-542.

          Departures from published transcriptions of L&C MSS in the BSM series are noted by designating the previous editor’s variant reading with the series abbreviation followed by a virgule and the volume number, e.g., BSM/XVII.