Wordsworth & Reed: The Poet's Correspondence with His American Editor

Wordsworth & Reed: The Poet's Correspondence with His American Editor

Wordsworth & Reed: The Poet's Correspondence with His American Editor

Wordsworth & Reed: The Poet's Correspondence with His American Editor

Excerpt

When the correspondence now collected in this book began, Wordsworth was no stranger to readers in the United States. As early as 1802. Lyrical Ballads had appeared in an American edition; from time to time his minor poems had been reprinted in our periodicals; American critics had had their say; and his influence had begun to show itself in the work of our poets. In 1840 his American correspondent in these letters could honestly assure him "that there were indications of sympathy with your writings perhaps as early in this country as in your own -- and that it has been growing wider and deeper every year, so that already there is many a thoughtful admirer scattered over our wide territory, as far as the language has travelled to the West."

It had remained, however, for Henry Reed, a young professor of English literature in the University of Pennsylvania, to bring out in 1837 the first American edition of Wordsworth complete poetical works. He wrote Wordsworth that he had had two motives for that undertaking. "The Editorship was assumed by me solely for the purpose of placing myself between you and the reprinters here and thus guarding your works from the errors and the abuse to which in the present defective state of legislation on international copyright the writings of foreign authors are more or less exposed. Perhaps I am not quite correct in saying this was the only motive, because I had also an ambition to associate my name with those productions which had been long regarded by me with the most affectionate veneration." This work passed through several editions, and for some time after its editor's untimely death in 1854 it remained the standard American edition of Wordsworth's Poems.

In England by 1836 Wordsworth had made his fame secure, and for various reasons he was beginning to relax from his labors. The time which he had long foreseen was come. His poetry had won its place. He was England's greatest living poet. Although he was no longer upsetting literary criticism with . . .

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