The Prelude: Or Growth of a Poet's Mind

The Prelude: Or Growth of a Poet's Mind

The Prelude: Or Growth of a Poet's Mind

The Prelude: Or Growth of a Poet's Mind

Excerpt

The Prelude is the essential living document for the interpretation of Wordsworth's life and poetry; any details, therefore, that can be gathered of the manner and circumstances of its composition must be of interest alike to biographer and critic. But of more vital importance than these is a knowledge of its original text. It has long been known that Wordsworth revised The Prelude in his later years, and conjectures have been inevitable on the character and extent of that revision. How far does the authorized text, as it was given to the world by the poet's executors, actually represent what he had written nearly half a century before, when he was in the fullness of his powers? Did he confine himself to purely stylistic correction and embellishment; or did he go further, and in any real sense rehandle his theme, in the spirit of his later thought? A study of this volume will supply the answer. The original version may now for the first time be compared with the edition published in 1850, and the development from the one to the other traced through its successive stages. If the comparison does not show a change as fundamental as some critics have anticipated, it reveals much that is highly significant in the history of the poet's mind and art.

But first it is necessary to have some knowledge of the manuscripts, and of their relation with one another.

There are five almost complete extant MSS. of The Prelude (A B C D E) covering the years 1805-39, as well as several notebooks and other MSS. (M J U V W X Y Z) which contain drafts of parts of the poem, and belong to an earlier period. The main MSS. fall clearly into two groups, according as they are more closely related to the first complete text or to the authorized version. A B C are thus related to the text of 1805-6, D E to the text of 1850. A description of all the MSS. follows.

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