The Prelude, 1799, 1805, 1850: Authoritative Texts, Context and Reception, Recent Critical Essays

Front Cover
Norton, 1979 - Literary Criticism - 684 pages
29 Reviews
There are no fewer than seventeen manuscripts of The Prelude in theWordsworth library at Grasmere. Working with these materials, theeditors have prepared an accurate reading version of 1799 and havenewly edited from manuscripts the texts of 1805 and 1850—thus freeingthe latter poem from the unwarranted alterations made by Wordsworth'sliterary executors. The editors also provide a text of MS. JJ(Wordsworth's earliest drafts for parts of The Prelude) as well astranscriptions of other important passages in manuscript whichWordsworth failed to include in any fair copy of his poem. The textsare fully annotated, and the notes for all three versions of ThePrelude are arranged so that each version may be read independently.The editors provide a concise history of the texts and describe theprinciples by which each has been transcribed from the manuscripts.

There are many other aids for a thorough study of The Prelude and itsbackground. A chronological table enables the reader to contextualizethe biographical and historical allusions in the texts and footnotes.

"References to The Prelude in Process" presents the relevant allusions tothe poem, by Wordsworth and by members of his circle, from 1799 to1850. Another section, "Early Reception," reprints significant commentson the published version of 1850 by readers and reviewers.

Finally, there are seven critical essays by Jonathan Wordsworth, M. H.Abrams, Geoffrey H. Hartman, Richard J. Onorato, William Empson,Herbert Lindenberger, and W. B. Gallie.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
14
4 stars
4
3 stars
7
2 stars
3
1 star
1

Review: The Prelude

User Review  - Chas Bayfield - Goodreads

Found this too haughty and dwelling too long and too deep on intangible ideas, beliefs and emotions. Then again, that was 25 years ago! Read full review

Review: The Prelude

User Review  - Laura Bellini - Goodreads

When we think of Wordsworth, most people, I guess, think of the young and optimistic Romantic poet of the Lyrical Ballads and 'The Solitary Reaper'. What many people do not know is that Wordsworth ... Read full review

About the author (1979)

William Wordsworth, 1770 - 1850 Born April 7, 1770 in the "Lake Country" of northern England, the great English poet William Wordsworth, son of a prominent aristocrat, was orphaned at an early age. He attended boarding school in Hawkesmead and, after an undistinguished career at Cambridge, he spent a year in revolutionary France, before returning to England a penniless radical. Wordsworth later received honorary degrees from the University of Durham and Oxford University. He is best known for his work "The Prelude", which was published after his death. For five years, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy lived very frugally in rural England, where they met Samuel Taylor Coleridge. "Lyrical Ballads", published anonymously in 1798, led off with Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner" and ended with Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey". Between these two masterworks are at least a dozen other great poems. "Lyrical Ballads" is often said to mark the beginning of the English romantic revolution. A second, augmented edition in 1800 was prefaced by one of the great manifestos in world literature, an essay that called for natural language in poetry, subject matter dealing with ordinary men and women, a return to emotions and imagination, and a conception of poetry as pleasure and prophecy. Together with Robert Southey, these three were known as the "Lake Poets", the elite of English poetry. Before he was 30, Wordsworth had begun the supreme work of his life, The Prelude, an immensely long autobiographical work on "The Growth of the Poet's Mind," a theme unprecedented in poetry. Although first finished in 1805, The Prelude was never published in Wordsworth's lifetime. Between 1797 and 1807, he produced a steady stream of magnificent works, but little of his work over the last four decades of his life matters greatly. "The Excursion", a poem of epic length, was considered by Hazlitt and Keats to be among the wonders of the age. After "Lyrical Ballads", Wordsworth turned to his own life, his spiritual and poetical development, as his major theme. More than anyone else, he dealt with mysterious affinities between nature and humanity. Poems like the "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality" have a mystical power quite independent of any particular creed, and simple lyrics like "The Solitary Reaper" produced amazingly powerful effects with the simplest materials. Wordsworth also revived the sonnet and is one of the greatest masters of that form. Wordsworth is one of the giants of English poetry and criticism, his work ranging from the almost childishly simple to the philosophically profound. Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson in 1802 and in 1813, obtained a sinecure as distributor of stamps for Westmoreland. At this stage of his life, Wordsworth's political beliefs had strayed from liberal to staunchly conservative. His last works were published around 1835, a few trickled in as the years went on, but the bulk of his writing had slowed. In 1842 he was awarded a government pension and in 1843 became the Poet Laureate of England, after the post was vacated by his friend Coleridge. Wordsworth wrote over 523 sonnets in the course of his lifetime. Wordsworth died at Rydal Mount on April 23, 1850. He is buried in Grasme Curchyard. He was 80 years old.

Jonathan Wordsworth was a Fellow of Saint Catherine's College, Oxford, and Faculty Lecturer in Romanticism in the English Faculty, Oxford University. He was also Chairman of the Trustees of Dove Cottage, Grasmere (the Wordsworth Archive). The author of The Music of Humanity and William Wordsworth, The Borders of Vision, and editor of Bicentenary Wordsworth Studies, he was at work on several other Wordsworth editions and studies.

Meyer Howard Abrams was born in Long Branch, New Jersey in 1912. He studied English at Harvard University and attained his B.A. in 1934. He won a Henry fellowship to Cambridge University in 1935, where he was tutored by I. A. Richards. Abrams returned to Harvard for graduate school, and received his Masters' degree in 1937 and his PhD in 1940. Abrams set the standard of critical authority for American literary studies for the quarter century after World War II. He is the author of two syntheses of English Romantic thought, and has also been general and Romantic period editor of the most widely used college anthology of English literature; The Norton Anthology of English Literature, as well as author of a popular Glossary of Literary Terms, and several influential essays on English Romanticism. Abrams's dissertation written in 1940, was expanded and published in 1953 as The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition. The Mirror and the Lamp contributed to the legitimation of English Romanticism as a field of study. Nearly 20 years later, in Natural Supernaturalism, Abrams asserted a different thesis with similar authority.

Stephen Gill is Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Lincoln College, Oxford. He holds an M.A. and a B. Phil. from Exeter College and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh and has taught at Edinburgh and at Cornell. He has edited the volume on The Salisbury Plain Poems for the Cornell Wordsworth series.

Bibliographic information