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The Devil's Walk, Edited by Neil Fraistat and Donald H. Reiman

Headnotes

In these notes, bold type is used to draw the eye to names of Shelley's contemporaries, his literary works, historical editions of his work, and literary collections that are of importance to Shelley scholarship and which we cite frequently.

For full citations of the sources in these notes, see the bibliography.


The Devil's Walk, A Ballad:

The first evidence that Shelley had begun this poem appears at the end of his letter to Elizabeth Hitchener of ?16 January 1812 (Jones, ed. The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley I, 235-37; British Library Add. MS 37496, f. 80v), in which Shelley included seven irregular ballad stanzas (49 lines) on the theme of Satan's encounters with members of the British establishment, introducing the poetry thus: "Here follows a few stanzas which may amuse you. I was once rather fond of the Devil."

The stanzas are modeled on The Devil's Thoughts, a poem that Southey and Coleridge had composed jointly and published (anonymously) in the Morning Post, 6 Sept. 1799. (That text appears in the notes to J.D. Campbell's Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge [1893 etc.], 621-22.) Shelley probably first read The Devil's Thoughts while seeing Southey at Keswick, beginning near Christmas 1811. Before they met, Shelley had been prejudiced against Southey by reports that he had grown more conservative, but after they talked a few times, he wrote to Hitchener: "Southey tho' far from being a man of great reasoning powers is a great Man. . . . He is a man of virtue, he never will belie what he thinks" (Jones, ed. Letters I, 212). Southey's contemporary letters show that he and Shelley discussed the relation of Southey's youthful political and religious beliefs to Shelley's current ones. If during these conversations Shelley confessed to Southey his school-boy attempts to raise the Devil, Southey likely tried to maintain his rapport with the youthful enthusiast by showing him his own early anti-establishment poems, including The Devil's Thoughts.

Next: Other Romantic Devils

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Published @ RC

September 1997

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