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The Rights of Editors

In response to:

Isn't It Romantic? from the June 14, 1973 issue

To the Editors:

I have no ground at all for complaint at your friendly treatment of the selection from Coleridge’s poetry by Mr. Pirie and myself [NYR, June 14], but it now strikes me that, through the interest of the theoretical case about the rights of editors, we made our actual changes sound larger than they are.

The standard collected text of the Poems of Coleridge (Oxford, 1912) gives extra lines, written by the poet but discarded later, at the foot of almost every page, in smaller type; a particularly large number come under The Ancient Mariner. In that poem we put all the rejected verses back (though not all the rejected lines) except the ones that would not fit in, as by making a contradiction; and we banished all the prose remarks added by the poet in the margin, the “marginal glosses,” to the notes at the end of the book. It may be argued that the poem is never read except by readers who have the Oxford text, and only if they read the bottoms of the pages too; but our mode of presentation (on this view) is at least better than what most readers get.

William Empson

London, England

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