"INTO this collected edition are gathered all the writings of William Sharp published under his pseudonym ""Fiona Macleod,"" which he cared to have preserved; writings characterised by the distinctive idiom he recognised to be the expression of one side of his very dual nature—of the spiritual, intuitive, subjective self as distinct from the mental, reasoning, objective self.
In the preparation of this edition I have carefully followed the author's written and spoken instructions as to selection, deletion, and arrangement. To the preliminary arrangement he gave much thought, especially to the revision of the text, and he made considerable changes in the later version of certain of the poems and tales. In one instance only have I acted on my own judgment, and have done so because I felt satisfied he would have offered no objection to my suggestion. In accordance with his decision the romance Green Fire is not reissued in its entirety, because he considered the construction of it to be seriously defective. He rewrote the second half of the story—the only portion he cared to keep—renamed it ""The Herdsman"" and included it in The Dominion of Dreams. Scattered throughout Green Fire there are a number of ""Thoughts"" which I and other readers are desirous of preserving; I have therefore gathered them together and have included them in the form of detached ""Fragments.""
The Laughter of Peterkin is also excluded, because it is a retelling of old familiar Celtic tales and not primarily an original work. Two of these retellings, however, Deirdre and the Sons of Usna, and The Four White Swans have been published separately in America by Mr. Mosher (Portland, Maine).
Though the ""Fiona Macleod"" phase belongs to the last twelve years of William Sharp's life, the formative influences which prepared the way for it went back to childhood. Though ""the pains and penalties of impecuniosity"" during his early struggles in London tended temporarily to silence the intuitive subjective side of his nature in the necessary development of the more objective intellectual ""William Sharp""—critic, biographer, essay and novel writer as well as poet—he never lost sight of his desire to give expression to his other self.
William Sharp was born in 1855 of Scottish parents (he died at Maniace, Sicily, in 1905), was educated at the Academy and University of Glasgow, and spent much of his youth among the Gaelic-speaking fisher-folk and shepherds of the West Highlands. After a voyage to Australia for his health, he settled in London in 1878 and strove to make for himself a place in the profession of Literature. His friendships with Rossetti, Browning, Pater, Meredith were important factors in his development; and later he came into valued personal touch with W. D. Howells, Richard Stoddart, Edward Clarence Stedman, and other English and American men of letters.
In 1886, not long after his marriage, he suffered a serious illness and a protracted convalescence. During the enforced leisure he dreamed many dreams, saw visions, and remembered many things out of the past both personal and racial. He determined, should he recover, to bend every effort to ensure the necessary leisure wherein to write that which lay nearest his heart. Accordingly in 1889 he left London for a time. The first outcome of a wonderful winter and spring in Rome was a volume of verse, in unrhymed metre, Sospiri di Roma, privately published in 1891, and followed in 1893 by a volume of dramatic interludes, Vistas; and, though both are a blending of the two elements of the poet's dual nature, they to some extent foreshadowed the special phase of work that followed. He was feeling his way, but did not find what he sought until he wrote Pharais, the first of the series of books which he issued under the pseudonym of ""Fiona Macleod.""
In the sunshine and quiet of a little cottage in Sussex; in the delight in ""the green life"" about him; impelled by the stimulus of a fine friendship, he had gone back to the influences of his early memories, and he began to give expression to his vision of the Beauty of the World, of the meaning of Life, of its joys and sorrows. The ultimate characteristic expression of his ""dream self"" was due to the inspiration and incentive of the friend to whom he dedicated Pharais. It was, as he states in a letter to me written in 1896, ""to her I owe my development as 'Fiona Macleod,' though in a sense, of course, that began long before I knew her, and indeed while I was a child""; and again, ""without her there would never have been any 'Fiona Macleod.'""
The volumes appeared in quick succession. Pharais in 1894; The Mountain Lovers in 1895; The Sin-Eater in 1895; The Washer of the Ford in 1896; Green Fire in 1896; The Laughter of Peterkin in 1897; The Dominion of Dreams in 1899; and a volume of poems, From the Hills of Dream, in 1896.
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