The Devil's Walk (Letter Version)

The Devil's Walk

Letter Version

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

edited by Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat

The Devil's Walk exists in both a broadside and a letter version. See the editors' headnote as well as the sections entitled Other Romantic Devils, Historical Contexts, Printing and Attempts to Circulate "The Devil's Walk", Textual Transmission, and Copy-text for a fuller description of its history and significance. Line numbers lead to variants within that line. When a line number is italicized, there is a variation between this text and the copy-text. Clicking on a highlighted number will take you directly to its linked variant. This variant will appear, in most cases, at the very top of a page that will also contain variants for subsequent lines. Links to more local editors' notes are highlighted in the text. Clicking on a highlighted portion of the text will take you directly to its linked annotation. This annotation will appear, in most cases, at the very top of a page that will also contain annotations to subsequent lines. If you wish, you can also browse the variants and the annotations independently:

  • primary variants from our critically edited text as collated against the copy of the 1812 broadside in the Public Record Office (1812.PRO).
  • broadside variants from our critically edited text as collated against all witnesses (i.e., the primary witness and 1871, 1876, 1892, 1927, 1970, 1972, and 1989).
  • letter variants from our diplomatic text as collated against all witnesses (i.e., 1890, 1927/i, 1927/viii, 1964J, 1972, and 1989).
  • annotations by the editors:
For full citations of these sources and sources in the editors' notes, see the bibliography.

Letter Version

N.B. This is a literal transcription of the text in the British Library Add. MS. 37,496, f.80 verso, except that letters partially worn away by damage to, or repair of, the paper have been included as if whole and the line-indentations that Shelley seems to have intended have been accentuated

01     The Devil went out a walking one day
02       Being tired of staying in Hell
03     He dressed himself in his Sunday array
04     And the reason that he was drest so gay
05     Was to cunningly pry, whether under the sky
06       The affairs of earth went well
07     He poked his hot nose into corners so small
08       One wd. think that the innocents there
09     Poor creatures were just doing nothing at all
10     But settling some dress or arranging some ball
11       ­­The Devil saw deeper there
12     He peeped in each hole, to each chamber stole
13       His promising live-stock to view
14     Grinning applause, he just shews his claws
15     And Satan laughed in the mirth of his soul
16     That they started with fright, from his ugly sight
17       Whose works they delighted to do
18     A Parson with whom in the house of prayer
19       The devil sate side by side
20     Bawled out that if the devil were
21       His presence he couldnt abide,   trick
22     Ha ha thought old Nick, thats a very stale
23     For without the Devil, ô favorite of evil  ^
24       In thy carriage thou wouldst not ride
25     He saw the Devil a viper slay
26       Under his brief-covered table
27     It reminded the Devil marvellously
28       Of the story of Cain and Abel
29     Satan next saw a Brainless King
30       In a house as hot as his own
31     Many imps he saw near there on the wi[ng]
32     They flapped the black pennon and twiste[d]
                                   the sting
33       Close to the very throne
34     Ah! Ah cried Satan the pasture is go[od]
35       My cattle will here thrive better than oth[ers]
36     They will have for their food, news of
                                humans blood
37     They will drink the groans of the dying
                                & dead
38     And supperless never will go to bed
39       Wch. will make 'em as fat as their
                               brothers   .
40     The Devil was walking in the Park
41       Dressed like a bond Street beau
42     For altho his visage was rather dark
43     And his mouth was wide his chin came
44     And something like Castlereagh was his
45       He might be calld so, so . .
46     Why does the Devil grin so wide
47       & shew the hore teeth within
48     Nine and ninety on each side
49       By the clearest reckoning _

Annotations (Letter Version)

lines 1-28. Here we transcribe the original manuscript in Shelley's mid-Jan. 1812 letter to Elizabeth Hitchener (British Library Add. MS. 37,496, f. 80 verso); there is a facsimile of the portion of that letter containing this poetic text, together with another literal transcription, in MYR: Shelley, VIII, ed. D. H. Reiman & M. O'Neill (Garland, 1997), 50-56.

Although the text of these stanzas in F. L. Jones's Letters (I, 235-37) places some characters at the ends of the first 28 lines within brackets, as though they were illegible or missing from the right-hand edge of the manuscript page, the only damage and repair that actually affecting these lines are along the fold of the letter paper at the left-hand edge of the column of poetry--at the beginnings of those lines. Jones must, therefore, have relied upon an imperfect photocopy of the manuscript.

line 6. earth : the initial e may be a capital letter, written minutely.

line 14. We think that the first word is more likely Grinning--as the editors of the letters have it--than "Receiving" (1989). This reading accords with the syntax, since the basix meaning of applause is "approval publicly expressed" and Satan is the active agent throughout this stanza. M. O'Neill, when transcribing the MS for MYR: Shelley, VIII, was dubious about the reading but left "Receiving" in the text, while discussing his doubts in a note.

line 16. Shelley first underscored they, and then canceled the underline.

line 20. Shelley left a blank after were to be filled later--presumably by a word rhyming with prayer (18).

line 22. thats (sic).

lines 25-28. This is the stanza that Shelley directly recollected (though perhaps unwittingly) from The Devil's Thoughts (see note to lines 84-87 of the Broadside). In the letter version, however, Shelley miswrote the Devil for "a lawyer" in line 25; in 26 his is superimposed on the.

line 29. Beginning with this line, Shelley continued his writing on the opposite side of the address panel; from here on, the repair to the worn fold is along the right-hand edge of the text, where the damage does affect the final letters of some words.

line 32. twisted : though 1989 reads this word as "twirled" (and emends twisted in the final text to "twirled" as a possible typo), the crucial letters seem to us to be st.

line 36. humans: Shelley canceled the terminal "s" in his draft.

line 41. bond Street beau (sic).

line 42. For: this word might be read as "Nor" were there not an identical For at the beginning of line 23; altho: first two letters are canceled.

lines 43-44. Shelley, the son of an M.P., had probably seen Castlereagh in person and would certainly have known political caricatures of him.

line 47. hore (given as "horse" in 1927 [Julian, Letters ], and 1964J and as "Iron" in 1989): this Germanic word comes directly from Old English. The Oxford English Dictionary gives it only as an obsolete noun meaning "Dirt, filth, defilement, foulness"; but though the noun had dropped out of use, probably because of its closeness to "hoar" and "whore," Shelley here uses it adjectively, meaning filthy or foul--a usage that may have persisted in rural Sussex.

line 48. and: written minutely and unclearly, but not "&" (as in 1989).

Letter Version

All Witnesses

This part of the editorial apparatus for P.B. Shelley's The Devil's Walk is slightly modified from the way it will appear in The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, edited by Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat and published by The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Our copy-text, which we transcribe diplomatically, is Shelley's letter to Elizabeth Hitchener of ?16 January 1812 (BLib Add. MS 37496, f. 80v). We collate our Text of the letter version of the poem with 1890, 1927/i, 1927/viii, 1964J, 1972, 1989, and MYR/viii. For full citations of the historical (i.e. not primary) editions, see the bibliography.

We have omitted from our comprehensive collation all variants that seem to us purely formal features of the printers or publishers involved in these editions, such as the length of indentions, the use of full capitals, small caps, and italic or Gothic type in the titles and subtitles­a practice at one time subject to the fonts available in a print-shop or the conventions of its compositorial staff and more recently under the control of publishers, book designers, and copy-editors. In a like manner, when quotation marks have been added, we have not differentiated between single and double quotation marks. Instead, we treat both as double quotes unless evidence suggests an editorial rather than typographical explanation for the appearance of the single quotes.

Letter Variants

TEXT collated with 1890, 1927/i, 1927/viii, 1964J, 1972, 1989, and MYR/viii.
In 1890, 1927/i, and 1927/viii, the stanzas are numbered with roman numerals.

Note:   The letter version appears once in volume 1 and again in volume viii of Ingpen's & Peck's 1927 edition of The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley.  We collate each below under the sigla 1927/i and 1927/viii.

line 1. a walking ] a-walking 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
day ] day, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 2. Hell ] Hell. 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 3. array ] array; 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 4. drest ] dressed 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 5. pry, whether ] pry whether 1972
pry | Whether 1890 1927/i 1927/viii

line 6. well ] well. 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1964J 1972

line 7. small ] sma[ll] 1964J

line 8. wd. ] would 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
wd. 1964J 1989
there ] there, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
ther[e] 1964J

line 9. creatures ] creatures! 1890 1927/i 1927/viii
creatures, 1972
all ] all, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii
a[ll] 1964J

line 10. dress ] dress, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
ball ] ball: 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
ba[ll] 1964J

line 11. ­The ] The 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
there ] there. 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1964J 1972

line 12. stole ] stole, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
sto[le] 1964J

line 13. view ] view. 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 14. Grinning ] Receiving 1989 MYR/viii
applause, he] applause | He 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
shews ] shows 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
claws ] claws: 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
claw[s] 1964J

line 15. they ] they underline is stricken through MYR/viii
line 16. fright, ] fright 1972
fright, from ] fright | From 1890 1927/i 1927/viii
his ] his omnia

line 17. do ] do. omnia

line 18. whom ] whom, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
prayer ] prayer, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
praye[r] 1964J

line 19. devil ] Devil 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
sate ] sat 1964J
side ] side, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 20. that ] that, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
devil ] Devil 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
were ] were [there], 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
were [there] 1964J 1989

line 21. couldnt ] couldn't 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
abide, ] abide. 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 22. Ha ha ] "Ha ha!" 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
old ] Old 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
Nick, thats ] Nick, | "That's 1890 1927/i 1927/viii
Nick, "That's 1890 1972
very stale ] very stale trick: 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 23. For ] For, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
Devil, ô ] Devil, | O 1890 1927/i 1927/viii
Devil, O 1964J 1972
favorite ] favourite 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
evil ] evil, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 24. ride ] ride!" 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
ride. 1964J

line 25. the Devil ] the Devil [? a Lawyer] 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1964J
a Lawyer 1972
the Devil [for a lawyer] 1989

line 26. table ] table: 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

his ] this/his "his" is superimposed on "this" MYR/viii
line 28. Abel ] Abel. 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1964J 1972

line 29. Brainless] brainless 1890
King ] king; 1890
King; 1927/i 1972
King, 1927/viii
line 30. In ... own] Many imps he saw there on the wing: 1890
own ] own. 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 31. Many ... wi[ng] ] In a house as hot as his own. 1890
wi[ng] ] wing: 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
win[g] 1964J
wing 1989 MYR/viii

line 32. pennon ] pennon, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
and ] & 1989
twiste[d] ] twisted 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
twirle[d] 1989 MYR/viii
sting ] sting, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 33. throne ] throne. 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1964J 1972

line 34. Ah! Ah ] "Ah ah!" 1890 1927/i 1927/viii
Satan ] Satan, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
the ] "the 1890 1927/i 1927/viii
go[od] ] good! 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
good 1964J 1989 MYR/viii

line 35. here ] here 1890
here 1927/i 1927/viii 1964J 1972 1989
oth[ers] ] others! 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
others 1989
other[s] MYR/viii
line 36. food, ] food 1972
food, news ] food | News 1890 1927/i 1927/viii
humans ] human omnia
blood ] blood: 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 37. & ] and 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
dead ] dead, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 38. bed ] bed, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 39. Wch. ] Which 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
Wch. 1964J
Wch 1989
brothers . ] brothers." 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
brothers. 1964J 1989
line 40. Park ] Park, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 41. bond ] Bond 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
beau ] beau: 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 42. For altho ] Nor, although 1890
Nor, tho' 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
Nor tho 1964J
For tho 1989
dark ] dark, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 43. wide ] wide, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
out ] out, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 44. snout ] snout, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 45. calld ] called 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1964J 1972
so, so . . ] so-so. 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
so, so. 1964J 1989 MYR/viii

line 46. wide ] wide, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 47. & ] And 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
shew ] show 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
hore ] horse 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
[? horse] 1964J
Iron 1989 MYR/viii
within ] within?­ 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 48. Nine and ninety ] Nine-and-ninety 1890
Nine & ninety 1989
side ] side, 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972

line 49. reckoning _ ] reckoning! 1890 1927/i 1927/viii 1972
reckoning­ 1964J 1989
__ ] omitted MYR/viii

DW Diplomatic Text (Letter Version)
Critical Text (Broadside Version)