Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shiel in Penguin Classics

How interesting, at last, to see M.P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud enter the canon of Penguin Classics.  This new edition has a lengthy introduction, and notes, by John Sutherland, whose Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (1989; revised 2009) is as useful and wonderful as his more recent Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives (2011) is glib and disappointing. 

Sutherland's Introduction to The Purple Cloud repeats and echoes some of the unfortunate glibness of the Shiel entry in Lives of the Novelists (e.g., where the latter refers to "the excessively minor poet John Gawsworth", this dismissal is lightened in the Introduction by the addition of parentheses to "the (excessively) minor poet John Gawsworth"---is such snideness really necessary?). But overall, his Introduction is informative and up-to-date---it is especially rewarding to see the pioneering biographical work of Harold Billings frequently cited, and the work of Kirsten MacLeod as well.  Billings's two volumes (the third is in progress) on Shiel's life are presently available only in the fine small press editions (here is the publisher's webpage for the first volume), and MacLeod's revelatory article is in an academic journal, so it is very good to see the excellent results of years of research being utilized in the mainstream. 

The book is out in England (click here for the link), and should be out soon in the US (click here for the link).

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