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In 1815 Percy Bysshe Shelley set about revising Queen Mab, marking changes in this copy of the 1813 edition which had been printed privately and circulated. There is another copy with marked changes, and this copy appears to be a fair copy marked up from other notes, now lost.
Mary Shelley proposed that ‘the alterations his mind underwent ought to be recorded, for they form his history’. In this reading, Queen Mab is a phase in the development of the poet’s mind, undergoing revision in The Daemon of the World. H Buxton Forman, a Shelley scholar, proposed that ‘by 1815 Shelley’s faith in Queen Mab was shaken to its foundations; for had he not far outstripped its overcharged rhetoric and bombastic fury?’.
The volume also contained much revised versions of the first two cantos of Queen Mab, published under the title The Daemon of the World, along with another revised section (entitled ‘Superstition’) from canto 6. In style and theme Alastor shows the influence of Wordsworth's Excursion (1814) and its portrait of the disillusioned Solitary. While Shelley disliked Wordsworth's reactionary politics (as he saw them), Alastor reveals that he now regarded the question of the poet's role as provoking dilemmas. Furnished with an epigraph from St Augustine about wanting to love while not finding what to love, the poem, in its brooding introspection, is a world away from the explicit radicalism of Queen Mab.
Dr Stephanie Forward explains the key ideas and influences of Romanticism, and considers their place in the work of writers including Wordsworth, Blake, P B Shelley and Keats.