Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

New Shelley Poem


  • Please log in to reply
25 replies to this topic

#1 Ray

Ray

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 997 posts

Posted 26 July 2010 - 08:31 AM

I found this recent Guardian blog post , about the fact that even the contents of a newly discovered Shelley poem remains inaccessible to the public, fascinating.

Perhaps we can draw some parallels to the Balanchine Trust's miserliness in re not allowing representations of GB's works to circulate?

#2 leonid17

leonid17

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,458 posts

Posted 26 July 2010 - 09:00 AM

I found this recent Guardian blog post , about the fact that even the contents of a newly discovered Shelley poem remains inaccessible to the public, fascinating.

Perhaps we can draw some parallels to the Balanchine Trust's miserliness in re not allowing representations of GB's works to circulate?


The poem is printed in a pamphlet which is being sold by Quaritch, the noted Antiquarian Booksellers who of course want to realise as much money as possible. Thus, they are quite reasonably not releasing the poem to the general public.

One hopes however that the purchaser of this item will not keep it to him/herself and that it stands up in quality after having received such wide publicity.

See:- http://www.quaritch....hts/shelley.htm

#3 Ray

Ray

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 997 posts

Posted 26 July 2010 - 10:47 AM

The poem is printed in a pamphlet which is being sold by Quaritch, the noted Antiquarian Booksellers who of course want to realise as much money as possible. Thus, they are quite reasonably not releasing the poem to the general public.


The author of the blog squarely takes issue with this: i.e., she argues that the writings of Shelley are part of Britain's national heritage, and as such must not be held privately, even if the artefact of the text may be. Quartich is acting "reasonably" only by one logic, quite unreasonably by others. Besides, it's already been sold.

Furthermore, it's disingenuous and cynical for Quartich to add the lustrous phrase that the poem "represents a major find for Shelley and Romantic scholarship" if scholars can't read it.

#4 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,738 posts

Posted 26 July 2010 - 11:42 AM

Thanks very much for posting this, Ray, I hadn't seen it.

The "owner" of the poem (past or future) will no doubt find a way of selling it, while the ghost of Shelley howls with contemptuous laughter."


I can't really visualize Shelley howling with laughter or otherwise, but the sentiment is spot on. It is indeed a fascinating case as Ray says. The work is centuries old and so copyright doesn't enter into it. I was especially flummoxed by the attitude of the TLS. Surely the point is not whether or not the poem is a missing masterpiece but that it is Shelley's and worth knowing for that reason alone regardless of historical and/or aesthetic interest.

The poem is printed in a pamphlet which is being sold by Quaritch, the noted Antiquarian Booksellers who of course want to realise as much money as possible. Thus, they are quite reasonably not releasing the poem to the general public.


No one begrudges a bookseller making a buck but the public interest is also involved, as Ray and the author note. If Quaritch can make a bundle selling the pamphlet itself, well and good. But if they're trying to jack up the price by withholding work by Shelley that no one has seen it's quite a different matter.

Ray, I can't say that I see any parallels with the Balanchine Trust in this situation, however. One may disagree with some of the Trust's decisions or think that it is over-vigilant at times, but the Trust's actions are generally explicable in reasonable terms and I doubt they are motivated by greed. Balanchine has been dead only thirty years and many of his heirs are still very much with us, with a strong interest in where and how his work is performed.

#5 leonid17

leonid17

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,458 posts

Posted 27 July 2010 - 12:18 AM

When The Guardian published the headline, “Owning manuscripts is one thing: owning the contents is quite another” firstly one thought what a load of over emotional nonsense and secondly what a seemingly a weak effort to echo Shelley's, "Queen Mab."

The phrase” possession is (as) nine-tenths of the law”, a concept going back to at least “Roman Law” and “sovereign right” immediately came to my mind.

One is aware with one’s possessions ‘rightfully owned’, that one is the only controller of ones property and may therefore do with it as one pleases.

The Guardian’s phrase,”…owning the contents is quite another.” as if there was some kind of denial of the public rights in this matter, has for me echoes of the first person to call himself an anarchist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who notoriously stated in his “What is Property? Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and Government” that “Property is theft” which notably, attracted the attention of Karl Marx.

It is nonsense to say that the right to keep private that which is privately owned,is an act of some kind of injustice to the public. It is an impudence to start telling people what they can do with their possessions and what is right or wrong in a such a matter.

Museums and library collections exist because of the activities of private collectors of the past. Let the new owner enjoy his private pleasure and lets hope that the pamphletit may find it is way into the public domain sometime in the future.

On another note, later this year, there will be an exhibition called, “ Shelley’s Ghost: Reshaping the Image of a Literary Family “, to be held in the Exhibition room of the Bodleian Library from 3 December 2010 – 27 March 2011. “Star items will include Shelley’s own notebooks, a letter of John Keats, William Godwin’s diary and the original manuscripts of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The exhibition will also feature treasures lent by the Pforzheimer Collection of the New York Public Library, many of which have never been on public display in the UK. “


Further comments and discussion on this matter can be found at:

http://www.timesonli...icle1072715.ece

http://books.elliott...poetical-essay/

http://www.horshamso...ry/poetical.htm

#6 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,738 posts

Posted 27 July 2010 - 08:58 AM

It is nonsense to say that the right to keep private that which is privately owned, is an act of some kind of injustice to the public. It is an impudence to start telling people what they can do with their possessions and what is right or wrong in a such a matter.


Alas, we live in impudent times. It's not at all nonsensical when it comes to newly discovered work by a canonical national author dead for nearly two hundred years. There is no reason why the pamphlet can't be shared in any number of ways and if the owner wants to make money out of it that's hardly impossible. I should think Shelley's work is already in the "public domain" although I'm not sure how that concept works in this situation and would be interested to hear more.



#7 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 27 July 2010 - 09:16 AM

leonid's link to the sales agent's website shows the front page of the pamphlet. The irony is that Shelley's poem -- "Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things" -- was clearly written in defense of freedom of expression and publication.

The cover page states that the pamphlet was published "for assisting to maintain in prison Mr. Peter Finnerty, Imprisoned for a Libel." (The Finnery case is fairly well known. Finnerty was an Irish journalist twice imprisoned by the British Tory government for libel during the Napoleonic Wars. The period from the early 1800s through the 1820s was NOT a good time for liberty in Britain, especially for political radicals and critics of the Conservative regime, of whom Shelly was one.)

The dealer's selling points all have to do with the Shellley poem. But it appears that he is actually selling the pamphlet which happens to contain the poem. Since this is the only extant copy of the pamphlet, the situation seems analogous to someone owning an original painting. What is to prevent the owner of a newly discovered Leonardo from locking it in his attic or even destroying it? The ethics of this are horrifying. But would it be illegal given our present economic system?

#8 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,738 posts

Posted 27 July 2010 - 09:26 AM

As far as I know the owner of the painting can do whatever he likes with it, including throwing it down an elevator shaft. The owner of this pamphlet can destroy it if he wishes. But in both cases each of them probably paid a goodly sum, so unless they're fruitcakes or really, really, really rich they'll take damn good care of them, so I'm not biting my nails over the prospect of destruction.

Owners of priceless paintings do often lend them to museums for display, however. The pamphlet contains pieces of writing easily reproduced and circulated without any harm to the original item.

#9 Quiggin

Quiggin

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 844 posts

Posted 27 July 2010 - 10:24 AM

Since this is the only extant copy of the pamphlet, the situation seems analogous to someone owning an original painting.


There is a difference. Poems don't exist on a support of paper or canvas and are not fabricated to be sold as unique things. They exist on the support of the voice, to be quoted in small sections by anyone who wants to, and are passed on that way. Once they're memorized they can't be owned or suppressed -- look at Osip Mandelstam's poems that were preserved in Natalia Mandelstam's memory.

#10 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,738 posts

Posted 27 July 2010 - 11:02 AM

Hi, Quiggin. Nice to hear from you. That's true, and of course before the age of print all poems were passed along in that way.





#11 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 27 July 2010 - 11:29 AM

Quiggan, you are right about the USSR under Stalin, when there was no possibility of official publication.

The pamphlet we are talking about was printed (openly and, one might say, freely) in London and was probably sold at the printer as well as "all other booksellers." It's questionable how many booksellers would actually have risked carrying this item, especially since sellers could also be brought to court.

The pamphlet's fate has been a mystery. No-one knows how many copies were produced, whether Shelley sold any and whether the university authorities destroyed some of them.

My memory is dim on this, but the structure of "censorship" in Britain was different from that in the Soviet Union. It also differed from the work of the censorship bureaucracies in continental Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. The British government did not put much effort into prior censorship (before publication). Instead, it focused on punishing -- through criminal law and in the courts -- after publication. The degree of punishment (and the fear it engendered) was significantly less than under Stalin. It was quite serious, nonetheless, involving extended prison sentences and large fines.

I've just read the Times article linked by leonid above. It has some of the background of the Finnerty case and something about Shelley's position as an Oxford undergraduate still in his teens. The funds he hoped to raise were probably for Finnerty's clothing, food, medicines, etc., while incarcerated under pretty grim circumstances.

#12 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,738 posts

Posted 27 July 2010 - 01:25 PM

Museums and library collections exist because of the activities of private collectors of the past. Let the new owner enjoy his private pleasure and lets hope that the pamphletit may find it is way into the public domain sometime in the future.


Fair enough (and thank you for those links) but many museums and libraries also benefit through public support, via government grants and other means. Without public money in one form or another many of those institutions might not exist.

I would suggest that's slightly beside the point, however. No one is questioning the right of owner of the physical copy of the pamphlet to his private enjoyment of same or to do with it as he wishes. The criticism is that in refusing to circulate the contents until he (presumably) gets the deal he wants that he's being less than public spirited.

#13 Ray

Ray

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 997 posts

Posted 27 July 2010 - 07:38 PM

[...] No one is questioning the right of owner of the physical copy of the pamphlet to his private enjoyment of same or to do with it as he wishes. The criticism is that in refusing to circulate the contents until he (presumably) gets the deal he wants that he's being less than public spirited.


I couldn't have put it better; there's no socialist plot afoot to divest the connoisseur of his hard-won artefact. And what's also part of the story, again, is the disingenuosness of the parties involved.

#14 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,738 posts

Posted 27 July 2010 - 08:48 PM

And so for now the pamphlet has for all intents and purposes vanished again, until its new owner has a change of heart or puts it up for sale (or someone finds another copy).

The author of the original blog commentary linked to by Ray, Michael Rosen, made mention of a related imbroglio concerning unseen writings by Kafka.

It seems almost Kafkaesque: Ten safety deposit boxes of never-published writings by Franz Kafka, their exact contents unknown, are trapped in courts and bureaucracy, much like one of the nightmarish visions created by the author himself.

The papers, retrieved from bank vaults where they have sat untouched and unread for decades, could shed new light on one of literature's darkest figures.


In this case it sounds as if these papers will see the light eventually, probably sooner rather than later. But it's an interesting example of a long-dead writer's work winding up as someone else's "property."

#15 leonid17

leonid17

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,458 posts

Posted 28 July 2010 - 12:09 AM

leonid's link to the sales agent's website shows the front page of the pamphlet. The irony is that Shelley's poem -- "Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things" -- was clearly written in defense of freedom of expression and publication.

The cover page states that the pamphlet was published "for assisting to maintain in prison Mr. Peter Finnerty, Imprisoned for a Libel." (The Finnery case is fairly well known. Finnerty was an Irish journalist twice imprisoned by the British Tory government for libel during the Napoleonic Wars. The period from the early 1800s through the 1820s was NOT a good time for liberty in Britain, especially for political radicals and critics of the Conservative regime, of whom Shelly was one.)

The dealer's selling points all have to do with the Shellley poem. But it appears that he is actually selling the pamphlet which happens to contain the poem. Since this is the only extant copy of the pamphlet, the situation seems analogous to someone owning an original painting. What is to prevent the owner of a newly discovered Leonardo from locking it in his attic or even destroying it? The ethics of this are horrifying. But would it be illegal given our present economic system?



I would have thought that more than one copy of this pamphlet has survived and it is highly probable that at least one copy exists somewhere in a UK Government collection, given what was seen as the significantly seditious nature of the work and the recent memory of “The War of American Independence”, the French revolution and of course the Napoleonic Wars which were still in full flood.

As to the poem's importance, “Professor Woudhuysen said that, while some of the poem’s language was reminiscent of Shelley’s other work, the regularity of the couplets is uncharacteristic. That, he suggests, may be explained by the pamphlet being “some sort of collaboration” between Shelley and his sister, Elizabeth.” You then begin to wonder if the newspaper reports of its status are little more that a series of ‘puffs’.


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):