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A variorum edition of The Seasons, a task often promised but never fulfilled, would be a boon to students of English literature.
The present edition of Thomson's "Seasons" is the first to reproduce the original texts of the Seasons together with all the various readings of the later editions. Efforts to accomplish such a work had been made long ago, e. g. by Wordsworth, Dyce, Bell, Peter Cunningham, and others, but as the enormous mass of alterations grafted upon the first texts by the author in later years checked any attempt of appending all the variants to a single text, the task was invariably abandoned. Indeed, if the somewhat unusual difficulties were to be surmounted, an apparatus not commonly employed in ordinary editions was required. In order to enable the student to obtain a clear idea of the development of the texts and of the innovations peculiar to each revision, it has been thought advisable to reprint the first texts in full and to add the alterations of the various later publications under separate historically arranged headings (B, C, D etc.), instead of throwing the whole matter into one continuous footnote and leaving to the reader the trouble of putting together for himself the variations belonging to the respective texts. According to the scheme adopted in the present edition authorised, it might be claimed, by Thomson's own way of emendating his “Seasons", viz. of always executing his corrections on the last text without ever referring to an earlier one the various readings occurring in the later editions are quoted only once, in reference to text where they first appear. It is, therefore, understood that those variants which were not replaced by others in a later text, were preserved throughout. In the cases of "Summer" and "Winter", the variations proved too many for the footnotes of a single text, and resort to the means of parallel texts was found necessary; in the case of “Winter” the printing in full of three texts was requisite.
In the reproduction of the texts the original spelling and punctuation have been faithfully adhered to,1) except that the words printed in italics in the original texts have not been thus distinguished in the present edition (the use of italics being reserved for alterations in the later fully printed texts), and that Thomson's way of printing whole words in capital letters has not been followed. (Words printed in capitals, in the original editions have been rendered by small ordinary letters; they have been supplied with a capital initial only in the cases of proper names and in the case of a large-sized capital being placed at the beginning of the word in the original editions, e. g. RURAL GAME or. ed. = rural game crit. ed. Aut. A. 359, BRITISH
ed. British Fair crit. ed. Aut. A. 561.) Since the clearness of the whole would have suffered, if the comparatively unimportant variations of spelling and punctuation had been introduced into the footnotes together with the verbal alterations, a special place has been assigned to the former variants (pp. XII-XXII). As to the spelling, it is noteworthy that in all the original editions, with the exception of the quarto of 1730 and the separate octavo editions of the Seasons founded upon this text and published before 1738, the nouns begin with a capital letter.
In the preparation of the 1744 edition of his "Seasons" Thomson was assisted by a friend, as is manifest from a copy of the first volume of “The Works” 1738 preserved in the British Museum Library (C. 28. e. 17). The interleaves of
1) A few obvious misprints which have been corrected will be found enumerated in the lists on pp. XII–XXII. The numbering of the lines has been likewise rectified, or introduced where it did not exist.
this book are covered with MS. corrections in two different handwritings, one of which is Thomson's, while hitherto the other has been almost generally attributed to Pope. Though it was '
not unknown to me that strong reasons had been brought forth against the authorship of Pope, I resolved, three years ago when transcribing these corrections ), on putting • a P (i. e. Pope) after the notes of the collaborator, in accordance with the proceeding adopted by the editor of the last Aldine Thomson. Lack of time prevented me then from investigating the question myself, and Professor Macaulay's note in the "Athenæum" (Oct. 1, 1904, p. 446)2) where, chiefly upon evidence of handwriting, Lyttelton is pointed out as the actual writer of the corrections, I had unfortunately not seen. When Professor Macaulay called my attention to it, in July 1907, my edition was already being printed. And, indeed, while there are many circumstances against the authorship of Pope, there are many in favour of that of Lyttelton. Thomson spent part of the year 1743 at Hagley, the country seat of his friend Lyttelton, and we know that he was at that time engaged in correcting his "Seasons". It is Lyttelton whom Thomson entrusted with the editorship of his works after his own death, and Lyttelton not only published an edition of Thomson's works in 1750 (1752) where The Seasons lost 89 lines (Aut. 483—569, 607, and 677), but, “conformably to the intention and will of the author”, he also made many changes in the Seasons later on, as is shown by an interleaved copy preserved at Hagley, and, but for the formal protest of Patrick Murdoch, would have issued this revision. -- Considering, however, that the critic who, in The Gentleman's Magazine, 1841, started the
2) The footnotes (MS) of the present edition give a full account of the (legible) emendations of the collaborator, while Thomson's corrections have been transcribed in so far only as they constitute variations from the readings of the other editions.
2) See also Prof. Macaulay's “James Thomson” in 'English Men of Letters', London 1908.
so-called "Pope theory ", namely John Mitford (the previous owner of the famous MS. copy of 1738) must also have been acquainted with the handwriting of Lyttelton (since part of the British Museum transcript of Lord Lyttelton's later emendations ) is in the hand of Mitford), I determined not to remain satisfied with the evidence of handwriting and the possibly accidental coincidence of circum-. stances. Professor Macaulay has already maintained that the corrections of the contributor bear a close resemblance to the poetry of Lyttelton, both as regards ideas and style, and he has, more especially, compared a passage in Lyttelton's "Monody to the Memory of his Wife" with the simile of the myrtle (Aut. 209 ff.), but, if I am not mistaken, no attempt has ever been made to establish a connection between the contributions in the copy of 1738 and the later emendations of Lord Lyttelton. It seems an interesting task to discover instances in which suggestions of the collaborator that had not been accepted by Thomson were repeated by Lyttelton. And such instances actually occur. Aut 115—23%) had been cancelled by the collaborator, but Thomson had dropped 118–23 only. Lyttelton cancels 115—17. — Aut. 206 which had been deleted by the collaborator was not omitted by Thomson. The line is obliterated by Lyttelton. - In Wi. 127, “quivering” which had been suggested by the contributor is also substituted by Lyttelton. It is the same with the word “gentle” for “tender” (Wi. 447). But the cases of the well-known catalogues of the Great Merlord much more important: In Su. 1551-63 L. takes up the work begun in 1743, carefully leaving unaltered the lines which had been already retouched, and in Wi. he comments upon Numa (502 ff.), who had been styled “the Light of Rome" by the collaborator. That the contributor had a preaching vein, will be gathered from his corrections on Aut. A 393 and 368.
1) 11632. c. 57.
2) If not otherwise noted, the figures refer to the last edition of The Seasons.