A brief lesson (for me) in editing

I admit it’s a bit confusing reading both versions of Moods at the same time but it’s sure been an eye-opener with regards to editing. As I sheepishly admitted in a reply to a comment from a recent post, I thought once a book was published that it was set in stone. Reading  Little Women certainly changed that notion, recalling all the changes made in later versions as cited in the Norton Critical edition.

Louisa cashed in on her clout as a world famous author to revise Moods in 1882 by restoring several chapters and changing the ending. I’m wondering if readers felt the way Star War purists feel about the first 3 movies being updated with new special effects (I know my son wishes fervently that George Lucas would just leave it alone!).

It didn’t take long to see the differences. As mentioned before, the 1882 version begins the book with the original chapter two (and changes the title from “Whims” to “Sylvia,” effectively introducing the main character), and eliminates the subplot involving Warwick with a Cuban lover, Ottila. When Louisa originally shortened the book, she cut out chapters introducing Geoffrey Moor and Adam Warwick, and a chapter that provided a more  in-depth look at Sylvia. Chapter 5, “Afloat”, includes an extra scene with Sylvia entertaining her brother, Moor and Warwick with her dramatic playacting skills. The 1864 version doesn’t include these chapters but incorporates them pretty nicely and logically into the “Afloat” chapter, with Sylvia asking her brother, Mark (Max in the later version – I’ll be interested to see if there is something about that name change in Louisa’s journal entries as I am curious why she changed it) about each man during the camping trip.

Editing a large manuscript must have been such a daunting task, especially the first time when Louisa had to lay her first-born on the table and “chop it up” as described in a previous post. I only wish we had access to the original manuscript and could read the book as she had intended it originally.

Perhaps Louisa loved Moods too well, preventing her from having that all-important objective eye. Her original publisher felt she needed to eliminate much of the conversation and move the story along faster.

At any rate, it’s an interesting study for a new student like myself.


2 Replies to “A brief lesson (for me) in editing”

  1. Sylvia decorated herself with garlands till she looked like a mermaid Mark as skipper issued his orders with the true Marblehead twang Moor kept up a fire of pun-provoking raillery Warwick sung like a jovial giant while the Kelpie danced over the water as if inspired with the universal gayety and the very ripples seemed to laugh as they hurried by. Mark there is a boat coming up behind us with three gentlemen in it who evidently intend to pass us with a great display of skill.

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