We have selected a variety of sonnets that, we hope, provide for the scholarly reader a sense of the form's development during this period and that appeal to the general reader. Our guiding principle for reprinting the texts is (1) to represent the ways in which these sonnets were read from 1750 to 1850 and (2) to make the sonnets as accessible as possible for the greatest number of readers.Therefore, our copy texts are always drawn from sources published within this time frame. For the most part, we have preferred the earliest published versions of the sonnets or, in some cases, the earliest accessible version, unless there is a compelling reason to use a different version, such as in cases of significant authorial revision.When we have used later editions, we have provided the date of first publication, if known. Except in cases where the poet died prior to publication, we have attempted to use versions of sonnets that the poet would have seen and approved.The notes at the back of the book indicate the source for the text of each sonnet.
The sonnets are organized by author and are arranged chronologically according to the date of their earliest significant publication of sonnets.Thus, we represent the authors in the order in which they made contributions to the sonnet tradition, while maintaining the cohesion of the poets' work. This method avoids the confusion that would result from representing the poets by their dates of birth: for example, Anna Seward and William Wordsworth were born before Charlotte Smith and Samuel Taylor Coleridge; however, Smith and Coleridge made more substantial contributions to the sonnet tradition before Seward and Wordsworth did. The order of the poets within this book, then, reflects the chronology of significant contributions to the sonnet tradition.
To avoid repetition, we usually have eliminated the word “Sonnet” at the beginning of any title in which it may appear. Spelling and capitalization are