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Editing Thomas Hardy: A Review-Essay By Simon Gatrell University of Georgia The volumes that give rise to this review-essay mark an important advance in the quality of readily available and relatively cheap editions of the novels of Thomas Hardy. Unlike almost every previously available, modestly priced, paperback version of Hardy's novels, the text that each edition presents is the result of a scholarly scrutiny of all substantively different versions of the novel published during the author's lifetime. In the notes that relate to the nature of the edited text the editors make more or less clear the procedures that have been followed in establishing the particular version of the text the edition offers. This is a considerable virtue, in that a scholar who has gained intimate knowledge of his or her chosen text through the repetitive processes of collation and proofreading has reached a series of conclusions about how best to present to the reader what Hardy wrote. On the other hand there is a limitation on this virtue, in that what the editions also have in common is a series format which makes it impossible for the editor to give a thorough account of his or her editorial procedure, and (even more limiting), provides no room for the apparatus that would allow the interested reader to judge the sufficiency of that procedure. I take it for granted that most purchasers of these volumes do not care very much, if at all, about the kind of text they are reading. They will be students and general readers who will most probably skip the notes on the text, assuming, as most readers of most books do, that what they read is what the author wrote. Nevertheless I also take it for granted that those who have spent time in preparing what they consider, by the lights they have chosen, to be the best achievable text, are content that these readers, happily unconscious of the labours that have been undertaken to ensure the fullness of their experience, will read what Hardy actually wrote and, at some time in his life, intended they should read. However, editing is not a science, and there are disagreements among scholarly editors over almost every stage of the editing process. For instance, these editions all accept the value of an eclectic text, one that approximates in the editor's eye to the author's final intention for his text (though there are several current definitions of "final" and "intention"), one that uses a single version of the text as copy-text, and allows into that copy-text such changes as have the authority of the author. There is, however, disagreement between 174 Gatrell: Editing Thomas Hardy the editors as to which witness to the text is the most appropriate to use as copy-text. In Dale Kramer's edition of The Woodlanders, Patricia Ingham's of Jude the Obscure and Simon Gatrell's of Under the Greenwood Tree, the manuscript has been chosen as the copy-text, but Robert Schweik has decided that for Far from the Madding Crowd the best witness to use as copy-text is the 1920 revised impression of the 1912 Wessex edition of the novel. A similar decision was made by the editors of A Pair of Blue Eyes and The Well-Beloved, but for these novels the full manuscript no longer exists. An examination of the reasons for this difference of approach is instructive. As part of the textual appendix to Schweik's edition, there is reprinted the section of an essay he wrote with Michael Piret ("Editing Hardy," Browning Institute Studies, 9 (1981): 15-41) that outlines the reasons for the rejection of the manuscript as copy-text for an edition of Far from the Madding Crowd. The argument is that the manuscript punctuation is so haphazard and incomplete that it cannot adequately form the basis for a critical text. And indeed, the decision of an editor of Far from the Madding Crowd who chooses to ignore the available manuscript punctuation in favour of the overlay of heavier pointing from the printing-house has strong arguments to support it. It is certainly the case that Hardy...


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pp. 174-185
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