The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth - Vol. 1

The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth - Vol. 1

The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth - Vol. 1

The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth - Vol. 1

Excerpt

This edition of the Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, of which the present volume is an instalment, aims primarily at supplying the reader with a sound text, together with an apparatus criticus which will record its development from the earliest existing copy, through its successive stages in manuscript and print, till it received its final revision; I have added in appendices poems and fragments which Wordsworth either left in manuscript or rejected from his later editions. My text, therefore, follows the six-volume edition of 1849-50, the last to appear under his personal supervision; and I have faithfully reproduced it, apart from some changes in punctuation, which the sense seemed to require, and two or three verbal errors, which are noted in their place. From the apparatus criticus I have omitted some trivial variants, for it is my experience that when notes are overloaded with minutiae their more important matter tends to be obscured, but I have included everything which seemed to me of the least significance, and I have erred on the side of fullness.

It is probable that no poet ever paid more meticulous or pro longed attention to his text than Wordsworth: certainly none has left more copious evidence of it. As successive editions were called for, in 1815, 1820, 1827, 1832, he gave their contents a careful scrutiny, retouching here and there in accordance with the promptings of his own taste, or with the suggestions of others. In preparation for the stereotyped edition of 1836 he submitted the whole body of his work to exhaustive revision, as he asserted, 'for the last time'. 'The labour', he told his publisher, 'that I have bestowed on correcting the style according to my best judgment . . . no one can estimate. . . . The annoyance of this sort of work is that progress bears no proportion to pains, and that hours of labour are often entirely thrown away, ending in the passage being left as I found it.' Yet in the next year he writes to Quillinan, asking him to compare the text of 1836 with that of 1832, and to report 'if anything strikes you as being altered for the worse'; he kept by him a copy in which from time to time he entered variants; and he made further changes both in later issues of the stereotype, and in the editions of 1845 and 1849. 'Little matters of composition', he confessed, 'hang about . . .

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