[Composed at Rome and near Leghorn (Villa Valsovano), May-August 5,]
1819; published 1820 (spring) by C. & J. Ollier, London. This edition
of two hundred and fifty copies was printed in Italy 'because,' writes
Shelley to Peacock, September 21, 1819, 'it costs, with all duties and
freightage, about half what it would cost in London.' A Table of
Errata in Mrs. Shelley's handwriting is printed by Forman in "The
Shelley Library", page 91. A second edition, published by Ollier in
1821 (C.H. Reynell, printer), embodies the corrections indicated in
this Table. No manuscript of "The Cenci" is known to exist. Our text
follows that of the second edition (1821); variations of the first
(Italian) edition, the title-page of which bears date 1819, are given
in the footnotes. The text of the "Poetical Works", 1839, 1st and 2nd
editions (Mrs. Shelley), follows for the most part that of the editio
princeps of 1819.
DEDICATION, TO LEIGH HUNT, ESQ.
Mv dear friend--
I inscribe with your name, from a distant country, and after an
absence whose months have seemed years, this the latest of my literary
Those writings which I have hitherto published, have been little else
than visions which impersonate my own apprehensions of the beautiful
and the just. I can also perceive in them the literary defects
incidental to youth and impatience; they are dreams of what ought to
be, or may be. The drama which I now present to you is a sad reality.
I lay aside the presumptuous attitude of an instructor, and am content
to paint, with such colours as my own heart furnishes, that which has
Had I known a person more highly endowed than yourself with all that
it becomes a man to possess, I had solicited for this work the
ornament of his name. One more gentle, honourable, innocent and brave;
one of more exalted toleration for all who do and think evil, and yet
himself more free from evil; one who knows better how to receive, and
how to confer a benefit, though he must ever confer far more than he
can receive; one of simpler, and, in the highest sense of the word, of
purer life and manners I never knew: and I had already been fortunate
in friendships when your name was added to the list.
In that patient and irreconcilable enmity with domestic and political
tyranny and imposture which the tenor of your life has illustrated,
and which, had I health and talents, should illustrate mine, let us,
comforting each other in our task, live and die.
All happiness attend you! Your affectionate friend,
PERCY B. SHELLEY.
Rome, May 29, 1819.