Shelley Find: ‘A Black Tulip Comes to the Pforzheimer Collection | The NYP Library’

I am all atwitter and giddy over this incredible Shelley find!

'Victor and Cazire'

“Here at the Pforzheimer Collection, our big acquisition of the year is a black tulip, one of the rarest items in the Shelleyan world: Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire, 1810, Shelley’s first book of verse. Lost to the public eye shortly after its publication and believed, till 1898, to have vanished altogether, only three other copies are known; one of them is imperfect. Even the Bodleian Library, holder of the best Shelley collection in the world, does not own it.

Victor and Cazire is the product of Shelley’s early and powerful urge to publish, to make an author of himself. It’s also evidence of his inclination to literary collaboration; he was “Victor” and his sister Elizabeth (1794-1831) “Cazire,” a name taken from Charlotte Dacre’s 1805 novel, Confessions of the Nun of St. Omer.

The reason for the volume’s rarity is that its longest poem, “St. Edmond’s Eve,” is plagiarized from Matthew Gregory Lewis’s volume Tales of Terror (frontispiece below). There it was published as “The Black Canon of Elmham, or, St Edmond’s Eve.” Shelley’s publisher, James Stockdale, detected the plagiarism just a few weeks after the book appeared. He relates that Shelley “with the ardour natural to his character … expressed the warmest resentment at the imposition practiced upon him by his coadjutor, and … instructed me to destroy all the copies…” (1) Since Shelley was almost surely the originator of the imposture, this resentment should have been aimed at himself; it’s hard not to think that he was laughing up his sleeve at his own joke. In any case, although Shelley had already received a considerable number of books, most of the 1500 copies (quite a large print run for a pair of unknown and pseudonymous writers) were destroyed. (2)


A Black Tulip Comes to the Pforzheimer Collection | The New York Public Library.


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