The publication of Volumes III and IV of Shelley and His Circle under the editorial auspices of Kenneth Neill Cameron makes available a further portion of the Shelley manuscript materials in the Carl H. Pforzheimer Library. These two volumes continue in the format and style of Volumes I and II, which received the critical acclaim of, among others, John Ciardi, who lauded Cameron and his contributing editors for rescuing “the material from felonious footnotery primarily by enclosing it in a continuous narrative that contains detailed introductions to each of the characters of the circle, and a general background of their relationships and of the times.”
Volumes III and IV progress chronologically through Shelley’s life, beginning with the early years of Shelley’s marriage to Harriet Westbrook, where Volume II ended, and concluding with her suicide. Among the manuscripts are twelve letters and literary pieces by Byron including the first of his “separation” poem “Fare Thee Well,” the expanded 1814 journal of Claire Clairmont, the curious triangular correspondence of Shelley, Mary Godwin, and Thomas Jefferson Hogg, Shelley’s annotated copy of Queen Mab, and the suicide letter Harriet Shelley wrote a few hours before she drowned in the Serpentine.
A number of maps especially prepared for this edition and other supplementary illustrations enhance the impeccable scholarship of these volumes which, with the projected publication of the remaining materials, will present a half century of interconnected biographies and will suggest the literary and intellectual tenor of the Romantic era. The Pforzheimer collection, exceeded only by that at the Bodleian in the number of Shelley and Shelleyana manuscripts, reflects the personal interests of Carl H. Pforzheimer, who put together one of the notable private libraries of modern times. Before his death in 1957, he planned the form of publication for his collection, designing it not only for the academic use of scholars but also as a stimulating and readable set for the enthusiastic layman.