Annotations (Letter Version)

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

Annotations (Letter Version)


lines 1-28. Here we transcribe the original manuscript in Shelley's mid-Jan. 1812 letter to Elizabeth Hitchener (British Library Add. MS. 37,496, f. 80 verso); there is a facsimile of the portion of that letter containing this poetic text, together with another literal transcription, in MYR: Shelley, VIII, ed. D. H. Reiman & M. O'Neill (Garland, 1997), 50-56.

Although the text of these stanzas in F. L. Jones's Letters (I, 235-37) places some characters at the ends of the first 28 lines within brackets, as though they were illegible or missing from the right-hand edge of the manuscript page, the only damage and repair that actually affecting these lines are along the fold of the letter paper at the left-hand edge of the column of poetry--at the beginnings of those lines. Jones must, therefore, have relied upon an imperfect photocopy of the manuscript.

line 6. earth : the initial e may be a capital letter, written minutely.

line 14. We think that the first word is more likely Grinning--as the editors of the letters have it--than "Receiving" (1989). This reading accords with the syntax, since the basix meaning of applause is "approval publicly expressed" and Satan is the active agent throughout this stanza. M. O'Neill, when transcribing the MS for MYR: Shelley, VIII, was dubious about the reading but left "Receiving" in the text, while discussing his doubts in a note.

line 16. Shelley first underscored they, and then canceled the underline.

line 20. Shelley left a blank after were to be filled later--presumably by a word rhyming with prayer (18).

line 22. thats (sic).

lines 25-28. This is the stanza that Shelley directly recollected (though perhaps unwittingly) from The Devil's Thoughts (see note to lines 84-87 of the Broadside). In the letter version, however, Shelley miswrote the Devil for "a lawyer" in line 25; in 26 his is superimposed on the.

line 29. Beginning with this line, Shelley continued his writing on the opposite side of the address panel; from here on, the repair to the worn fold is along the right-hand edge of the text, where the damage does affect the final letters of some words.

line 32. twisted : though 1989 reads this word as "twirled" (and emends twisted in the final text to "twirled" as a possible typo), the crucial letters seem to us to be st.

line 36. humans: Shelley canceled the terminal "s" in his draft.

line 41. bond Street beau (sic).

line 42. For: this word might be read as "Nor" were there not an identical For at the beginning of line 23; altho: first two letters are canceled.

lines 43-44. Shelley, the son of an M.P., had probably seen Castlereagh in person and would certainly have known political caricatures of him.

line 47. hore (given as "horse" in 1927 [Julian, Letters ], and 1964J and as "Iron" in 1989): this Germanic word comes directly from Old English. The Oxford English Dictionary gives it only as an obsolete noun meaning "Dirt, filth, defilement, foulness"; but though the noun had dropped out of use, probably because of its closeness to "hoar" and "whore," Shelley here uses it adjectively, meaning filthy or foul--a usage that may have persisted in rural Sussex.

line 48. and: written minutely and unclearly, but not "&" (as in 1989).

Published @ RC

September 1997

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