This disgraceful edition calls itself the "Complete Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley". It is nothing of the kind.
Much of Shelley's work was suppressed by 19th century editors, poems such as "A Ballad" for example. The poem, beginning "Young Parson Richards stood at his gate", was one of the poems Shelley intended for his projected "Popular Songs" volume, political poems in simple language to be sold amongst workers and their families in England. "A ballad" concerns religious hypocrisy, prostitution and starvation.
Standard editions of Shelley still suppress this poem, 218 years after it was written.
Shelley's first editor, Mary Shelley had no choice about censoring Shelley's more radical poems: she was dependent on Shelley's father Sir Timothy Shelley, for 150 pounds a year that was the different between survival and starvation for herself and her son. And Sir Timothy wanted his dead son, that shameful atheist, democrat and philanthropist, forgotten. Mary Shelley was under financial threat if she preserved her late husband's memory, and in that context her work as editor was brave and loyal.
Let's not forget that people went to jail, during the early and mid-19th century, for publishing Shelley's works: Chartist and other working class and radical publishers.
But by the cusp of the 20th century, Shelley's Victorian editors had no such excuses: and they were neither brave nor loyal. They _could_ have produced a genuinely complete works, but they chose not to. They wanted to give the world a harmless Shelley, a "beautiful and ineffectual angel", as Matthew Arnold called him, and they were prepared to suppress and distort Shelley's works to help preserve that image.
But - amazingly - here we are in the 21st century, and this edition appears. And not only does it perpetuate the various omissions of Shelley's 19th century editors/suppressors (why is _Laon and Cythna_ still appearing in its bowdlerised form as _The Revolt of Islam_?), but THIS EDITION ACTUALLY DELETES CONTROVERSIAL SHELLEY MATERIAL THAT EVEN THE VICTORIANS HAD THE COURAGE TO PRINT.
So if you buy this edition, you'll find many Shelley poems missing, as you will if you buy the Oxford edition of Shelley's Poetical Works. But in this edition you will also find that the notes to _Queen Mab_ have disappeared. Why? The notes to _Queen Mab_ are as integral a part of the poem as Elliot's Notes to _The Wasteland_. The reason is not space, or that the notes are prose. If prose was the problem, why not remove the long prefaces to several of the longer works, or the notes to _Hellas_, or Mrs Shelley's notes?
The reason, clearly, is that Shelley's opinions, as expressed in the notes ot _Queen Mab_ are still controversial. The atheism and the defence of religious freedom including freedom from religion, his hatred of his government's military adventures, his views on marriage, on prostitution, his proto-socialism, are still capable of offending the sort of committee that gets books pulled from libraries, especially school libraries.
And sadly, it seems that there are still publishers who believe that people should be protected from the knowledge that Shelley was a radical, a controversialist on the side of the weak, the poor and powerless, an activist some of whose messages would see him in trouble, still, with those in power today.
Not everyone who buys Shelley _wants_ Shelley the controversialist, of course. He is perhaps the supreme English lyric poet, a poet of nature and of light, idealism and love. But even if you don't particularly want to read the notes to _Queen Mab_, and the other material missing from this volume, you may feel that censorship of a major English poet, whose work and thought should be part of all of our heritage, should not be rewarded or encouraged. Don't buy this edition. There is a complete edition coming, in four volumes, edited by Neil Fraistat. Unfortunately, at US$57 a volume, that will be out of many people's price ranges. However it can be hoped that Fraistat's edition will shame the several publishers of one-volume "Complete Poems" into ending the current censorship and suppression.
But this edition is a huge and disgraceful step _backwards_ in Shelley publishing: actually containing less than the already-inadequate Oxford Complete Poetry. In the meantime, I can only recommend that Shelley lovers buy the Oxford edition, if they can't afford the Fraistat.
No cheers on this one,
Laon (no relation)