A Note on the Text

Edward Jacobs, Rebecca Coleman, Dan Fuller, Jennifer Hartshorn, Heather Erin Herbert, Diana Nogay, Karen Taylor, Julie Sorge Way


            Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) first published the short story “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter” in The Dublin University Magazine’s May 1839 issue. No manuscripts or printing proofs survive. Although friends recollected that Le Fanu often did not save working drafts, any remaining ones were likely lost with the rest of his papers, which were imprudently managed by his son Philip after his death (Fitzgerald 2: 470-1; McCormack Sheridan 271). Le Fanu wrote a total of twelve similarly framed short stories for the magazine between 1838-40, all in the fictional voice of Catholic parish priest Francis Purcell. During Le Fanu’s lifetime, he reworked this story, retitling it simply “Schalken the Painter,” for the 1851 collection Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery, making several significant changes to the text. After Le Fanu’s death, all twelve original Purcell tales were collected (along with a thirteenth from 1850), and edited with a prefatory “Memoir of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu” by Le Fanu’s close friend, Alfred Perceval Graves, into the three-volume work, The Purcell Papers, published in London in 1880 by Richard Bentley. All following posthumous editions lack the authority of these three first textual witnesses, with some later editions, such as that in the E. F. Bleiler widely-used 1964 anthology, having significant textual problems created by careless editing (Haslam 348-9). These three original, authoritative textual witnesses we reference in this edition with the following sigla: DUM for “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter” in The Dublin University Magazine, GSTM for “Schalken the Painter” in Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery, and PP for “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter” in The Purcell Papers.

            The base text we chose for this edition is DUM. As discussed in our “General Introduction,” Le Fanu was known for “rewriting and recycling material in different versions and genres,” and since the DUM version was the basis for all later versions, it is the most logical choice for annotating change (Jacobs “General Introduction” section 1). There is no indication that there were any authoritative revisions made to the original DUM version in the posthumous PP version. Most scholars, including ones closely attentive to textual issues like Crawford, Crawford and Showers, and Haslam, treat DUM and PP as different witnesses to the same version, and our collation of the three witnesses using the Juxta software finds no incontrovertibly “substantive” differences between DUM and PP, although it does reveal many differences in the “accidentals” of the two witnesses.[1]

            In editing and presenting Le Fanu’s story, we follow Jack Stillinger's “Practical Theory of Versions.” Recognizing that “every separate version has its separate legitimacy and that all authoritative versions are equally authoritative” (121), Stillinger refuses to favor a single version over another and dictates that any substantive difference between texts constitutes a new version of the said work (130). He suggests that in situations like ours, involving multiple versions of the same work, there is no one defined witness that is inherently best or most authoritative because determining what degree of difference constitutes a new version or what criteria establishes authority is subject to arbitrary definition and interpretation (130-3). However, Stillinger acknowledges that, practically speaking, editors still have to “make choices” (140) when crafting critical editions. In keeping with Stillinger’s principles, inflected by John Bryant’s more recent “fluid text” theory—which argues that the primary purpose of editing should be “to showcase revision” (Bryant 144; cf. 153)—we choose the earliest witness as our base text in order to allow us to register in our edition every textual variant from DUM in the two later witnesses. In short, as editors we follow Stillinger (and Bryant) in privileging the value of distinguishing different versions over the value of arguing for the authority of any one version, as in “best text” theory (Zeller), or of creating an “eclectic” text that combines variants from different versions into a new, “authoritative” text (Greg; Tanselle “Editing”). Consequently, we have refrained from emending DUM, even for what Hans Zeller calls “textual faults”(Stillinger 133; Zeller 249). Instead, we annotate these important places in the text, drawing attention to such “faults” or inconsistencies and indicating how and if GSTM or PP resolve them. Most importantly, we have annotated the nine places near the end of DUM where Le Fanu seems to forget about the frame in which the DUM narrator is Francis Purcell telling a story he learned in his youth from “a Captain Vandael” (DUM 579) to the unnamed friend who posthumously published Purcell’s papers in Dublin University Magazine. Instead, in these places, the narrator directly addresses the readers of that magazine in the so-called “editorial we” voice.[2]

            The only significant way in which we adapt Stillinger’s editorial theory is that we include the GSTM illustration “The Rivals” by “Phiz” (the well-known illustrator Hablot Knight Browne) as an in-line annotation and link from the phrase “the reality,” after which the illustration appears in GSTM at a page break. Stillinger insists that “[n]o reader of an illustrated text can read uninfluenced by the illustrations (123).” However, because we insert this illustration from the GSTM version into DUM only as an in-line note that readers must chose to click and follow, appending it to the DUM text in COVE seems to us consistent with the spirit of Stillinger’s theory and the most practical way to at once respect the integrity of each version and make visible to readers each of the variants that distinguish them as versions according to Stillinger’s theory. By contrast, we include the three illustrations by Le Fanu’s son George Brinsley published in his posthumous selection of his father’s tales, The Watcher and Other Weird Stories (London: Downey, 1894) outside of our edited text, in the Supplemental Materials section of our edition’s homepage, since it is highly unlikely that Le Fanu himself ever saw or approved these illustrations before he died, and since Brinsley’s collection is not one the three witness texts we collate.

            We have recorded as in-line textual notes all variants among the three witnesses. However, working from Stillinger’s loose general rule that only a “substantive” variant inarguably constitutes a new version of a work (130), we have distinguished substantive and accidental variants with different tags in COVE, so that readers may choose to filter “substantive” variants that inarguably create a new version separately from less consequential variants in typographic “accidentals,” such as the many added paragraph breaks in PP versus DUM or the frequent differences between Irish and English spellings, e.g. “mustaches” in DUM and “moustaches” in PP. Specifically, we tag “substantive” variants using the Textual tag built into COVE, whereas for variants in “accidentals” we have created a Textual-Accidental tag. As mentioned above, the largest difference between DUM and GSTM is the removal of the Purcell frame. By the eighth paragraph, DUM and GSTM generally vary more at the level of phrasing, spelling, and punctuation, although some of these variants are quite extensive and substantively significant. Most of the textual variants between DUM and PP are spelling, punctuation, and paragraphing changes, so that there are few if any substantive variants between DUM and PP, in which the DUM Purcell frame is preserved.

            Our textual notes tagged in both ways contain at minimum a full historical collation formatted according to standard practice for editorial apparatus: a lemma (i.e., the highlighted text tagged in COVE as the site of Textual or Textual-Accidental variants) followed by a closing bracket and then by a stemma listing variants from GSTM and PP separated by a semi-colon. For example, a rudimentary textual note looks like this: xxx] yyy GSTM; zzz PP. We have chosen not to use any of the editorial symbols often used in editorial apparatus, such as ~ for a repeated word and ^ for missing punctuation, in order to make our notes immediately clear to readers not versed in editorial theory or practice.[3]

            The historical collation of the three witness texts used for our in-line textual notes are, as noted above, based upon the output of the open-access collation software Juxta. In order to use Juxta, we transcribed our three witness texts according the protocols stipulated in Jacobs’s “Protocols for Transcribing and Formatting Textual Witnesses for Scholarly Editing” and we proofread those transcriptions according to the protocols stipulated in Jacobs “Protocols for Scholarly Proofreading.” We include both of these documents on our edition homepage under the Editorial Apparatus heading. We also include under that heading the raw Juxta collation output, which our in-line historical collations have critically edited. Juxta is a state-of-the art collation software, but when input with UTF-8 plain text witness texts, its output does not register all variants in character format. Because our edition was produced (for the most part)  during a semester-long course in Scholarly Editing and Textual Scholarship, we did not have time to code our proofread transcriptions into html, which would have given Juxta more capacity to collate character format. Our in-line textual notes also edit the raw Juxta collation output by combining into one stemma the different stemmae that Juxta tends to create for each stemmatic witness to the same lemma, especially when Juxta is confronted with major substantive variants among multiple textual witnesses, which is often the case with the textual witnesses to our edition, especially between DUM and GSTM. To put this in less technical terms, the Juxta output often separated the variants in GSTM and PP from the same phrase in our DUM base text into separate lines of historical collation. In order to reduce the number of annotations to our base text, our in-line textual notes for this edition combine those separate lines of Juxta output into one comprehensive listing of variants in GSTM and PP from the same phrase in DUM, according to the standard historical collation format detailed above of: lemma] variant GSTM; variant PP.

            In addition to a historical collation of the three witness texts, our textual notes at times include brief textual commentaries, for example justifying why we retain what is a “textual fault” in best-text theory, or briefly pointing out how variants change meaning. When textual notes contain such commentaries, we have generally also tagged them with COVE’s built-in Interpretative tag.

            Because we cannot always be certain whether or not compound words that are hyphenated at line breaks were hyphenated because of authorial choice or compositor choice, we have opted not to hyphenate such compound words unless they are also hyphenated when they occur elsewhere mid-line in the DUM base text, in keeping with standard editorial practice (Tanselle “Editorial” 336-7 and “Some” 75-81).

            Our explanatory notes follow Martin Battestin’s “A Rationale of Literary Annotation.” Battestin’s basic principle (which builds on the principles of Arthur Friedman) is that “the purpose of literary annotations…is to recover for the reader, as briefly and objectively as possible, all essential information (and only essential information) necessary to render the author’s meaning wholly intelligible” to the intended readers of one’s edition, who will generally differ historically and culturally from the original readers the author intended to address (19-20). As Battestin admits, annotators must adapt this basic principle depending on the specific audience their edition targets, on the nature of the text being edited (4) and their editorial judgement about “what constitutes ‘the meaning of the text’” and “the procedure required to make that meaning ‘intelligible to the reader’” (9). However, he concludes that generally

an effective note will serve one or more of four functions: (1) it may define obscure terms or provide translations of words and passages in a foreign language; (2) it may identify persons, places, events, and literary allusions, supplying the reader, when appropriate, with such additional contextual information as he [sic] needs to appreciate how the reference ‘works’ in the text; (3) it may illuminate the author’s ideas or expressions either by citing specific sources for them or by adducing parallel passages from contemporary writings; and (4) it will record, whenever they seem significant, parallel or contradictory passages from the author’s other works, as well as indicating such passages by cross-references as they occur elsewhere in the text itself (20).

The vast majority of our notes serve the first two of Battestin’s functions, although some also serve functions three and four. In keeping with the Friedman principle “heartily” endorsed by Battestin that “as far as possible [an editor’s notes] should be derived from contemporary sources rather than from modern reference works” (Battestin 19 quoting Friedman 125), our explanatory notes (and the research behind them) privileges sources published by 1839 (the original date of publication for DUM) or ones that are contemporary to the narrative’s seventeenth-century Dutch setting. When contemporary sources have not yielded sufficient information, we have turned to the most historically-informed and authoritative relevant modern sources, such as the Oxford English Dictionary. Generally, we have refrained from citing crowd-sourced works like Wikipedia, but in a few cases we have cited Wikipedia entries that, to the best of our knowledge,  provide useful and accurate summaries of some of the longer (or more difficult to access) authoritative sources that we also cite. We would nonetheless like to remind readers that even well-vetted entries like those we cite from Wikipedia have not been professionally peer-reviewed  and that readers should therefore take care to verify for themselves the authority of any information they cite from such sources. In all notes, we use the spelling “Schalcken” to refer to the historical painter and the spelling “Schalken” to refer to Le Fanu’s fictional character. In keeping with COVE’s purposes “to support and publish all material that Victorianists consider important for the understanding of the period” (Purpose 4) but also to be “open for use by other field and subject groups” (Purpose 7), we have crafted our annotations for a global scholarly audience interested in the Victorian period, ranging from Victorian specialists and novices to specialists and novices in other periods.

            We have tagged explanatory notes serving Battestin’s first function using COVE’s Linguistic tag. We have tagged those serving his second function using the Historical and/or Cultural tags. In keeping with Battestin’s principle that explanatory notes should include “only essential information…necessary to render the author’s meaning wholly intelligible” (19-20) to our targeted audience of scholars interested in the Victorian period, we have limited ourselves to informational notes and refrained from notes whose sole function is to interpret the text for readers. Hence, as noted above, we use COVE’s Interpretative tag rarely, mainly for Textual notes that contain commentary on the textual variants recorded or notes tagged Linguistic, Historical, or Cultural that involve the kind of commentary outlined in Battestin’s above-quoted description of the second “effective” function of explanatory notes.

            Because this is a fully critical edition containing not only numerous explanatory notes but also textual notes that list all variants among three different versions of the work, the default opening view of the DUM reading text displays most of the text highlighted in the various colors that COVE uses to tag different kinds of annotation. Some readers may find this view distracting or bewildering, so we would like to alert readers that you can use our tags to filter which annotations you see highlighted in the text: Textual, Textual-Accidental, Linguistic, Cultural, Historical, and/or Interpretative. To access the filter pane, click on any annotation, then click inside the text box that pops up; doing so will open a larger text box that on its top banner lets you click on “Filters.” You may filter the text view differently each time you visit the text.

            Finally, we would like to alert readers to the fact that our “General Introduction” and this “Note on the Text” contain Works Cited listings specific to them. For a comprehensive Works Cited, readers should consult the Works Cited included under the Editorial Apparatus section of our edition’s homepage. That Works Cited includes sources cited in the two above documents, as well as additional sources cited in our textual and explanatory annotations. Readers should also be aware that our in-line annotations generally include web links only to important visual images like paintings and maps, but that our comprehensive Works Cited contains many further links to the reference works cited parenthetically by our in-line notes.


Works Cited

Battestin, Martin C. “A Rationale of Literary Annotation: The Example of Fielding’s Novels.” Studies in Bibliography 34 (1981): 1–22.

Bryant, John. The Fluid Text: A Theory of Revision and Editing for Book and Screen. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002.

“COVE Constitution.” 22 Sept. 2015, https://editions.covecollective.org/content/about-cove.

Fitzgerald, Percy Hetherington. The Lives of the Sheridans. 2 Vols. London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1886.

Friedman, Arthur. “Principles of Historical Annotation in Critical Editions of Modern Texts.” English Institute Annual (1941): 115-128.

Greg, W. W. “The Rationale of Copy-Text.” Studies in Bibliography 3 (1950-1): 19-36.

Haslam, Richard. “Theory, Empiricism, and ‘Providential Hermeneutics’: Reading and Misreading Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla and ‘Schalken the Painter’.” Papers on Language and Literature 47, 4 (Fall 2011): 339-61.

Jacobs, Edward. “General Introduction.” “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter,” by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. COVE Editions, 2020.

Juxta. http://www.juxtasoftware.org/about/

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. “Schalken the Painter.” Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery. Dublin: James McGlashan; London and Liverpool: William S. Orr and Co., 1851: 107-135.  [GSTM]

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter. Being a Seventh Extract from the Legacy of the Late Francis Purcell, P. P. of Drumcoolagh.” Dublin University Magazine 13 (May 1839): 579-91. [DUM]

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. “Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter. Being a Seventh Extract from the Legacy of the Late Francis Purcell, P. P. of Drumcoolagh.” The Purcell Papers, by Sheridan Le Fanu. Edited by Alfred Perceval Graves. 3 Vols. London: Bentley, 1880. Vol. 2: 184-254. [PP]

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. The Watcher and Other Weird Stories. With Twenty-one Illustrations [and a Preface] by Brinsley Sheridan Le Fanu. London: Downey, 1894. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc2.ark:/13960/t6k075m3z

Stillinger, Jack. “A Practical Theory of Versions.” Coleridge and Textual Instability: The Multiple Versions of the Major Poems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994: 118–140, 247-250.

Tanselle, G. Thomas. “Editing without a Copy-Text.” Studies in Bibliography 47 (1994): 1-22.

Tanselle, G. Thomas. “Some Principles for Editorial Apparatus.” Studies in Bibliography 25 (1972): 41-88.

Tanselle, G. Thomas. “Editorial Apparatus for Radiating Texts.” The Library, 5th series, 29 (1974): 330-37.

Zeller, Hans. “A New Approach to the Critical Constitution of Literary Texts.” Studies in Bibliography 28 (1975): 231–64.


[1] See Greg for a foundational critical reflection on the longstanding editorial distinction between “substantive” and “accidental” variants among texts. See below for details on how we have input our witness texts to Juxta and how we have edited Juxta’s collation output.

[2] See our Textual notes to the following phrases: “our readers” (DUM 589); “we are about imperfectly” (DUM 589); “we have already spoken” (DUM 589); “our rational readers” (DUM 589); “after the events which we have detailed” (DUM 590); “after the event we have narrated” (DUM 590); “we have above attempted to describe” (DUM 590); and “the reader will easily perceive, by our studiously omitting to heighten many points of the narrative, when a little additional colouring might have added effect to the recital, that we have desired to lay before him” (DUM 591). For context, see Jacobs “General Introduction,” section 4.

[3] See Tanselle “Some” and “Editorial” for classic critical histories of the various forms and formats of editorial apparatus.