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Second thoughts of great authors who have revised books after they were already in print, are on view in the Poetry Room of Widener Library this week, in an exhibition of marginal notes by famous writers.
One of the most important textual changes shown is that by Coleridge in his proof-copy of "The Sibylline Leaves," on a verse of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." After heavily crossing out the verse.
"A gust of wind sterte up behind
And whistled through his bones,
Through the holes of his eyes and the hole of his mouth
Half whistles and half groans."
Coleridge wrote the following comment in the margin! "This stanza was struck out by the author and reprinted either by the oversight or the self-opinion of the printer, to whom the author was indebted for various intended improvements of his poems."
Now light is shed on the Boswell- Johnson-Thrale group and its domestic difficulties by a rare volume of Boswell's "Life of Johnson" fully and acidly annotated by Johnson's friend Mrs. Thrale, later Mrs. Piozzi. (It was on the occasion of her taking this name that Johnson wrote his famous latter beginning, "If I interpret your letter right, your are ignominiously married.")
Her opinion of Boswell is clear from the note, "I thought him a clever and comical Follow," and in another place she writes, "Curiosity carried Boswell further than it over carried any Mortal breathing." In retaliation to Boswell's statement that he was not pleased with the great Doctor's intimacy with the Thrale family, and the restraint which it imposed on him, Mrs. Thrale retorted in the margin. "What Restraint can he mean? Johnson kept everybody else under Restraint."
Keat's copy of the 1817 edition of Hazlitt's "Characters of Shakespeare's Plays," carefully studied and noted, reveals the great effect of Shakespeare on him. Also exhibited is the first published work of Browning, who later attempted to buy back and suppress every copy of his "Pauline".
Most of the volumes shown are from the collection of Amy Lowell, which makes up the mass of the books in the Poetry Room, and the exhibition will be on until the end of next week.
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