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suggested themselves in the act of transcription. Upon showing it to the friend in conversation with whom the design had originated, he said, “ I am glad you have written this ; it will serve as a store where you will find good passages for better poems." His opinion of it was more judicious than mine ; but what there was good in it or promising, would not have been transplantable.
Toward the close of 1794, it was announced as to be published by subscription in a quarto volume, price one guinea. Shortly afterwards I became acquainted with my fellow-townsman, Mr. Joseph Cottle, who had recently commenced business as a bookseller in our native city of Bristol. One evening I read to him part of the poem, without any thought of making a proposal concerning it, or expectation of receiving one. He, however, offered me fifty guineas for the copyright, and fifty copies for my subscribers, which was more than the list amounted to; and the offer was accepted as promptly as it was made. It can rarely happen that a young author should meet with a bookseller as inexperienced and as ardent as himself, and it would be still more extraordinary if such mutual indiscretion did not bring with it cause for regret to both. But this transaction was the commencement of an intimacy which has continued, without the slightest
shade of displeasure at any time, on either side, to the present day.
At that time, few books were printed in the country, and it was seldom indeed that a quarto volume issued from a provincial press. A font of new types was ordered for what was intended to be the handsomest book that Bristol had ever yet sent forth; and when the paper arrived, and the printer was ready to commence his operations, nothing had been done toward preparing the poem for the press, except that a few verbal alterations had been made. I was not, however, without misgivings, and when the first proof-sheet was brought me, the more glaring faults of the composition stared me in the face. But the sight of a well-printed page, which was to be set off with all the advantages that fine wove paper and hot-pressing could impart, put me in spirits, and I went to work with good-will. About half the first book was left in its original state; the rest of the poem was re-cast and re-composed while the printing went on. This occupied six months. I corrected the concluding sheet of the poem, left the Preface in the publisher's hands, and departed for Lisbon by way of Coruña and Madrid.
The Preface was written with as little discretion as had been shown in publishing the work itself.
It stated how rapidly the poem had been produced, and that it had been almost re-composed during its progress through the press. This was not said as taking merit for haste and temerity, nor to excuse its faults, ---only to account for them. But here I was liable to be misapprehended, and likely to be misrepresented. The public indeed care neither for explanations nor excuses; and such particulars might not unfitly be deemed unbecoming in a young man, though they may be excused and even expected from an old author, who, at the close of a long career, looks
upon himself as belonging to the past. Omitting these passages, and the specification of what Mr. Coleridge had written in the second book (which was withdrawn in the next edition), the remainder of the Preface is here subjoined. It states the little which I had been able to collect concerning the subject of the poem, gives what was then my own view of Joan of Arc's character and history, and expresses with overweening confidence the opinions which the writer entertained concerning those poets whom it was his ambition not to imitate, but to follow... It cannot be necessary to say, that some of those opinions have been modified, and others completely changed, as he grew older. .
The history of Joan of Arc is as mysterious as it is remarkable. That she believed herself inspired, few will deny; that she was inspired, no one will venture to assert; and it is difficult to believe that she was herself imposed upon by Charles and Dunois. That she discovered the King when he disguised himself among the courtiers to deceive her, and that, as a proof of her mission, she demanded a sword from a tomb in the church of St. Catharine, are facts in which all historians agree. If this had been done by collusion, the Maid must have known herself an impostor, and with that knowledge could not have performed the enterprise she undertook. Enthusiasm, and that of no common kind, was necessary, to enable a young maiden at once to assume the profession of arms, to lead her troops to battle, to fight among the foremost, and to subdue with an inferior force an enemy then believed invincible. It is not possible that one who felt herself the puppet of a party, could have performed these things. The artifices of a court could not have persuaded her that she discovered Charles in disguise; nor could they have prompted her to de mand the sword which they might have hidden,
without discovering the deceit. The Maid then was not knowingly an impostor; nor could she have been the instrument of the court; and to say that she believed herself inspired, will neither account for her singling out the King, or prophetically claiming the sword. After crowning Charles, she declared that her mission was accomplished, and demanded leave to retire. Enthusiasm would not have ceased here; and if they who imposed on her could persuade her still to go with their armies, they could still have continued her delusion.
This mysteriousness renders the story of Joan of Arc peculiarly fit for poetry. The aid of angels and devils is not necessary to raise her above mankind; she has no gods to lackey her, and inspire her with courage, and heal her wounds: the Maid of Orleans acts wholly from the workings of her own mind, from the deep feeling of inspiration. The palpable agency of superior powers would destroy the obscurity of her character, and sink her to the mere heroine of a fairy tale.
The alterations which I have made in the history are few and trifling. The death of Salisbury is placed later, and of the Talbots earlier than they occurred. As the battle of Patay is the concluding action of the Poem, I have given it all the previous solemnity of a settled engagement. Whatever ap