Title Background

Editing the C Text: The Athlone Press Edition of 1997′  , 

Editing the C Text: The Athlone Press Edition of 1997′  , 

This essay recounts the history of the editing of the C text of L’s PPl from Skeat onwards, with particular attention to some of the historical reasons that led to the traditional preference shown by critics to the B text, the other longer version of the poem. It assesses the problems that faced George Russell and George Kane when they came to prepare the edition of C for the monumental Athlone Press critical edition of all three versions. These problems included the unsystematic and unfinished nature and uncertain extent of L’s revision of B in C and the fact that the text of B upon which the poet based his C revision was itself a scribal copy, with many errors. The Russell and Kane edition is acclaimed for its success in dealing with these problems and for its brilliance in the practice of conjectural emendation, though criticism is directed at the limited provision of textual commentary and the excessively dogmatic nature of the editors’ decisions about L’s alliterative, grammatical and syntactical practice in their approach to the task of editing. At times it appears that the editors wish to suppress the frequently evident colloquialism and informality of L’s poetic style and to impose a kind of ‘house style’ on his poem. The edition is also criticized for its reluctance to recognize that L may not have identified all the ‘errors’ that faced him in his B exemplar as errors or may not have wished to correct those that contributed to a greater directness of expression. Final conclusions point to the editors’ rigidity in dealing with the inexhaustible fluidity of L’s poetic practice and the uncertainty, still, of his intentions in many of his C revisions. (DP)


YLS, 24 (2010), 21-37.

Cross Reference



Pearsall, Derek