Skip to content

Shelley’s ‘Symposium’

by on November 13, 2008

Mary Shelley's handwritten restorations of Percy Shelley's original words, in her printed copy of his prose works.

Mary Shelley's handwritten restorations of Percy Shelley's original words, in her printed copy of his prose works.

At the second Literary Manuscripts Masterclass, on 10 November, Michael O’Neill made the point that after Percy Shelley’s death, Mary Shelley wished to protect his reputation, promote his popularity, and preserve his words. But in the cultural and moral atmosphere of the time these were not always easily reconcilable goals.

In 1823 she transcribed Shelley’s prose works for publication, and Michael O’Neill showed the press copy (shelfmark: MS. Shelley adds. d.8, ) prepared by Mary, and marked in pencil by Leigh Hunt with suggested amendments. Both Hunt and Mary were concerned about passages in Shelley’s translation of Plato’s Symposium, and in Shelley’s own Essay on Love, describing love between men.

The photograph here shows the printed edition that did appear in 1840, but this is a copy (shelfmark: Shelley adds. e.19) interleaved with blank pages, on which, facing each printed page, Mary Shelley has restored the original words written by Shelley (such as “lover” for “friend”), preserving Shelley’s words despite the demands of publication and the prejudices of the time.

From → Manuscripts

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: