“HiLoBooks’ edition of his novel omits two sections which have until now prevented it from reaching a wider audience: the tale’s romantic prefatory conceit and its lengthy, relatively uneventful denouement. Our otherwise unabridged version begins and ends with the most dramatic moments in this epic tale: chapters Two and Eleven.”
This disturbs me.
I don’t like having my books ‘edited’ for me. That is, texts that have been altered, cut, reordered or changed from the original published version. If the author releases a new, “unexpurgated” version, then that is something different. The author themselves are saying, “This was cut from the original publication” or “I re-wrote parts to make it better”. That’s the author making those changes and, by and large, I agree with their ability to do so even if I don’t necessarily support it (I’ve never read the “unedited” version of Stephen King’s THE STAND, for example, because the thought of going through all those pages again makes me weary).
But this is something different. This is an editor, or publisher saying, “we don’t think this part worked so we’re taking it out.” Well, to me, that’s not their call to make. The work should stand on it’s own; warts and all. I want to read the original version the way it first appeared and decide for myself what works and what doesn’t.
THE NIGHT LAND seems to be particularly prone to this hazard. Due to it’s length and odd style, some editors have chosen to remove whole chapters from the reprints. Lin Carter did it for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy edition of THE NIGHT LAND (July 1972) which still took up two paperback volumes and it appears that some publishers are still doing it today.
Nor is this Hodgson’s only work to suffer from some of this ‘editing’.
Some reprints of THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND remove the first chapter which describes the finding of the manuscript or the author’s introduction. The removal of either, to me, is a mistake as they provide invaluable context for the story. Some editions delete the poems “Grief” and “Shoon of the Dead” altogether.
THE GHOST PIRATES has a different problem in that, apparently, it had a different ending originally! Before the first publication in 1909, Hodgson removed the final chapter and tried, unsuccessfully, to sell it as a short story. I would consider any edition published today to be incomplete without this extra chapter titled, “The Silent Ship Tells ‘How Jessop Was Picked Up'”. And, of course, the poem that begins the novel, “The Hell!! Oo!! Shanty”, is sometimes omitted.
Only THE BOATS OF THE “GLEN CARRIG” seem saved from this posthumous editing as I have not seen any variations in the editions.
All of which is a warning to the reader to be careful when they buy lest they end up purchasing an ‘edited’ version by mistake. Enough time has gone by and there is really no reason for any of Hodgson’s works to not appear complete and unedited.