The Pirate’s Tale


From Literary Review:

In front of me were three pamphlets of poetry by Tennyson: two titled The Lover’s Tale (both dated 1870) and another called The New Timon and the Poets (dated 1876). On the face of things, the story seemed simple enough. The Lover’s Tale is a long early poem that Tennyson had intended for his Poems (1832). However, he pulled it from the collection at the last minute, explaining to his publisher, Moxon, that ‘it is too full of faults’ and though ‘it might conduce towards making me popular, yet to my eye [it] spoils the completeness of the book’. However, a number of friends were eager to see the poem in print. As a concession to them, Tennyson had a few copies run off separately before the printer’s type was dismantled. These pamphlets, dated 1833 on the title page, are among the greatest rarities of 19th-century literature.

In 1870, the notorious Richard Herne Shepherd set about producing a pirated edition of The Lover’s Tale, while also compiling a small selection of poems that Tennyson had published and subsequently suppressed – mostly occasional pieces for magazines. These two works were sold either separately or bound together. When an angry Tennyson got wind of the scheme, he sued Shepherd and most of the pamphlets were destroyed. The surviving piracies are, as a result, themselves very rare. At first glance it seemed I had two of these surviving pamphlets, the first with an added introduction but without the section of uncollected poems, and the second without an introduction but with the poems. My third pamphlet, The New Timon, appeared merely to comprise the poems.

Sticking out in the front of The New Timon, however, was a clue that something fishy was going on: the bookplate of Wise’s friend and accomplice Harry Buxton Forman.

“Bookends”, James Marriott, Literary Review