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  ― ix ―

General Editorial Foreword

The Colonial Texts Series provides reliable texts of nineteeth century Australian literary works which have been out of print or difficult of access throughout most of the present century. The selection of titles is deliberately slanted towards works of fiction–novels and collections of short stories–because their length has militated even more than in the case of verse against their re-publication. Such texts reveal a range of colonial artistic achievement which has largely dropped from view.

The significance of the titles chosen for publication derives from their power to communicate a fuller and richer understanding of Australia's colonial culture than is otherwise available: the nature of popular taste, the incidence and importance of serial fiction, the influences on Australia's colonial writers, the milieu which sustained, tolerated or rejected them. Accordingly the Introductions outline relevant biographical, historical and critical contexts which the explanatory notes, placed after the main text, further detail; and, to the extent that manuscript and archival resources permit it to be done, a composition and production history of each text is also provided. Critical editions are not mere reprints. To have taken that easier and cheaper path would have been to accept as textually reliable the actions, whether intelligent and well-meaning or not, of all persons involved in producing the commercial editions of each work; and it would have been to forgo the clarifying prospects of each editor's investigation of the circumstances of the writing, production and reading of the work in its original contexts.

A reliable text represents the work accurately and fully. To this end all potentially authorial forms of the text–manuscripts, proofs, serialisations and book editions, whether Australian or foreign–have been located and compared, although some works have extant only one state with authorial involvement. The form of the work which best preserves the author's practice in formal matters, particularly spelling and punctuation, is chosen as the


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base or copy-text. This is usually the earliest complete or published version of the work, but if necessary the copy-text is emended to represent it (and all such emendations are listed), however, in most cases the copy-text is reproduced in essentially unemended form. Authorial alterations and revisions, if any, are recorded in the apparatus at the foot of the page. Thus a literary work as presented in the Colonial Texts Series is neither mere reprint nor eclectic synthesis; it consists of the corrected text and the apparatus, which reports its alternative authorial forms.

Distinctions between authorial and non-authorial variants are made when the editor has compiled a complete bibliographical record of the textual transmission. Alterations by scribes, typesetters, publishers, and others (and variant readings first occurring in posthumous editions) will not normally be printed, but a historical collation will be lodged in the Library of the Australian Defence Force Academy. Except as specified in the Introduction or Note on the Text, the punctuation, spelling and style of the copy-text have not been regularised and so might appear at first to the modern reader as unfamiliar or inconsistent; however, they reflect authorial or at least period practice. Where a serialisation provides copy-text, care is taken to indicate the manner in which the original instalments were presented.

These endeavours are aimed at presenting a reliable text for a range of colonial works and at revealing the various contexts in which each work took shape and was read, thus helping to fulfil the primary aim of the Series of making a significant contribution to the understanding of the literary culture of Australia's colonial period.

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