An editor’s work is mostly unseen, so it
can be a shock on the rare occasions when we can compare an author’s early
draft with the finished book.
I was recently thrilled to find a 1969 edition of The Tailor of Gloucester, taken from Beatrix Potter’s original manuscript.
|my childhood copy|
I’m still thrilled, but for many different
reasons. The first shock was the cover: not the dear little mouse tailor reading
his paper on a spool of thread, but a pleasant painting of Gloucester in the
snow. My favourite picture, of a mouse finishing an elaborate embroidery wasn’t
there at all. (I’m sure this is what started my fascination with embroidery at
about the same time). In fact, there are many fewer pictures: as Beatrix Potter
said in the letter to the child it
was written for: “There ought to have been more pictures towards the end, and
they would have been the best ones; only Miss Potter was tired of it! Which was
lazy of Miss Potter.”
The introduction explains that she later
had the book privately printed, in 1902, rather than giving it to her
publisher, Frederick Warne & Co, because, “I was quite sure in advance that
you would cut out some of my favourite rhymes!”
|my favourite illustration|
She was right: when Warne published it in
1903, it was with more illustrations, and fewer nursery rhymes. The text is trimmed
and clarified. It is a much better book. One of my editors once said to me,
“This is a beautiful scene – but it doesn’t belong in the book.” I’d say the
same about the collection of old rhymes in Potter’s manuscript: interesting,
worthy of collecting – but they don’t belong in the book.
I’ve sung editors’ praises before, because
I know how much they add to my own work, but it was a rare treat to be able to
stand back objectively and see their influence on a classic work.
If you're a Beatrix Potter fan: I was searching online for a cover image
and found this lovely site: Tailor of Gloucester (Though in the end I just scanned my own
Labels: Beatrix Potter, editor's role, editors, Tailor of Gloucester, what does an editor do, when author and editor disagree