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245 THE ABINGER EDITION OF E. M. FÖRSTER By Oliver Stallybrass Although, at the moment of writing, only two volumes of the Abinger Edition have yet been published, by the end of 1973 the figure is expected to have risen to five¡ and it is perhaps not too early for the editor to make a first esquisse for those Prolegomena which for some reason are always published after the edition to which they relate. The Abinger Edition has its origin in an exchange of views which took place, after Forster's death in June 1970, between his executors (the late Professor W. J. H. Sprott and the ViceProvost of King's College, Cambridge) and his main English publisher , Edward Arnold Ltd. Although I was not involved in the initial stages of this discussion, it is safe to say that the relevant facts and assumptions included the following: 1. Forster was regarded as a major English writer. 2. Of the 38 books and pamphlets listed by Kirkpatrick,1 about a third were unobtainable in any shape or form. Most of the major works were in print, but in England (which was naturally the focus of attention) they were divided between three hardback and one paperback publisher. A work as central as Two Cheers for Democracy was unavailable in hardback, and other major works were shortly going to need, at the least, reprinting . The 9-volume Pocket Edition, however, had become over the years a less viable proposition than when it was launched in 1947. There was also reason to believe that many, perhaps all, of the volumes in print were textually faulty¡ and such indexes as the non-fiction volumes possessed were far from good. 3. Kirkpatrick had drawn attention to the unexpectedly large number of uncollected writings: by my count 41 contributions to books, and by George H. Thomson's 3IO contributions to periodicals and newspapers, "a substantial body of writing comprising something over 300,000 words."2 4. It was found - to a few people it had long been known - that Forster had written much more than had ever been published. The unpublished material included a novel, a dozen short stories, two substantial chunks of novels, various shorter fictional fragments, several plays complete and incomplete, a film script, some verse (mostly pornographic), broadcasts and other occasional pieces - to say nothing of letters, diaries, notebooks, and other personalia. 5. In addition to the unpublished material, Forster left behind him complete or virtually complete manuscripts of four of the published novels and of Mar ianne Thornton, much draft manuscript material for the fifth nove1,3 and various other manuscripts 246 and typescripts of published work. Against this background, two decisions were made. The first was that the unpublished novel, Maurice, should appear in print as soon as possible) there were special reasons for this. The second was to launch, under my editorship, a new edition of Forster's writings. I was not given a precise written brief, nor have I particularly wished to receive one. Such adjectives as "complete," "collected," and even "definitive" have at one time or another been tossed in the air, but "definitiveness" in particular seems to me an aim even more absurd than it is pretentious - what precisely is being defined? - and I am happy that the name finally chosen, the Abinger Edition, leaves me (in consultation, of course, with the trustees and the publisher ) maximum freedom to make ad_ hoc decisions as I go along. This freedom is particularly important when, for normal commercial reasons, it is not possible to plan the entire edition in considerable detail before a single volume actually appears. Nevertheless, although no simple formula"was available, I had from the outset a reasonably clear view of what was appropriate ¡ and so far this view has coincided in all essentials with that of the Vice-Provost and Mr. George Rylands of King's College (to which on the death of Professor Sprott in September, 1971 Förster's estate passed absolutely). I propose now to discuss the aims which I have set myself, and the problems encountered in trying to fulfill them, under three main heads: scope and arrangement) preparation of the...


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pp. 245-256
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Ceased Publication
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