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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $23.00
  • December 1979
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-09071-0
  • 704 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

The Prelude

1799, 1805, 1850

Norton Critical Editions


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William Wordsworth (Author), M. H. Abrams (Editor, Cornell University), Stephen Gill (Editor, Lincoln College, Oxford University), Jonathan Wordsworth (Editor, Exeter College, Oxford University)


This volume is the first to present Wordsworth's great poem in all three of its forms. It reprints, on facing pages, the version of The Prelude that was completed in 1805, together with the much-revised work published after the poets death in 1850. In addition, the editors include the two-part version of the poem, composed in 1798-99. Each of these poems possesses distinctive qualities and values; to read them together provides an incomparable chance to observe a great poet composing and re-composing, throughout a long life, his major work.

There are no fewer than seventeen manuscripts of The Prelude in the Wordsworth library at Grasmere. Working with these materials, the editors have prepared an accurate reading version of 1799 and have newly edited from manuscripts the texts of 1805 and 1850—thus freeing the latter poem from the unwarranted alterations made by Wordsworth's literary executors. The editors also provide a text of MS. JJ (Wordsworth's earliest drafts for parts of The Prelude) as well as transcriptions of other important passages in manuscript which Wordsworth failed to include in any fair copy of his poem. The texts are fully annotated, and the notes for all three versions of The Prelude are arranged so that each version may be read independently. The editors provide a concise history of the texts and describe the principles by which each has been transcribed from the manuscripts.

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

"References to The Prelude in Process" presents the relevant allusions to the poem, by Wordsworth and by members of his circle, from 1799 to 1850. Another section, "Early Reception," reprints significant comments on 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.



    Events of Wordsworth's Life


    The Prelude

    1. The Two-Part Prelude of 1799
    2. The Prelude of 1805 in Thirteen Books
    3. The Prelude of 1850 in Fourteen Books
    4. MS. Drafts and Fragments, 1798-1804
      1. 1. The Beginnings of The Prelude: 1799 Drafts and Related Materials in MS. JJ, October 1798
      2. 2. Fragments from Peter Bell. MS. 2, ca. February 1799
      3. 3. Draft Material from the Five-Book Prelude in MS. W, February 1804
      4. 4. Rejected Drafts for 1805, Book VIII, in MS. Y, October 1804
    5. Manuscripts of The Prelude, 1798-1850
    6. The Texts: History and Presentation
      1. General Editorial Procedures
      2. Composition and Texts: The Two-Part Prelude of 1799
      3. Composition and Texts: The Prelude of 1805 and 1850

    Context and Reception

    1. References to The Prelude in Process: 1799-1850
    2. The Early Reception
      1. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, To William Wordsworth
      2. Thomas De Quincey, William Wordsworth
      3. From the Eclectic Review
      4. From Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine
      5. From the Gentleman’s Magazine
      6. From Graham’s Magazine
      7. From the British Quarterly Review
      8. From the Dublin University Magazine
      9. From the Examiner
      10. Henry Crabb Robinson
      11. Frederick Denison Maurice
      12. Thomas Babington Macaulay
      13. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
      14. Ralph Waldo Emerson
      15. Matthew Arnold
      16. A. C. Bradley

    Recent Critical Essays

    1. Jonathan Wordsworth, The Two-Part Prelude of 1799
    2. M. H. Abrams, The Design of The Prelude: Wordsworth's Long Journey Home
    3. Geoffrey H. Hartman, A Poet's Progress: Wordsworth and the Via Naturaliter Negativa
    4. Richard J. Onorato, The Prelude: Metaphors of Beginning and Where They Lead
    5. William Empson, Sense in The Prelude
    6. Herbert Lindenberger, Images of Interaction in The Prelude
    7. W. B. Callie, Is The Prelude a Philosophical Poem?

    Bibliography of Works Cited and Consulted

    Selected Reading