Mark Lafayette Reed. A Bibliography of William Wordsworth: 1787-1930

By Graver, Bruce E. | Studies in Romanticism, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Mark Lafayette Reed. A Bibliography of William Wordsworth: 1787-1930


Graver, Bruce E., Studies in Romanticism


Mark Lafayette Reed. A Bibliography of William Wordsworth: 1787-1930. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2013. cxxvi+1238. $295.

WORDSWORTH BIBLIOGRAPHY HAS REMAINED IN A CURIOUSLY UNSATISfactory state. Most of the earliest attempts, compiled in the late 19th century, were appendages to collective editions of Wordsworth's poetry, and these are woefully lacking in the kind of bibliographical detail that booksellers, collectors, and scholars alike depend on. (1) Twentieth-century bibliographies of Wordsworth are, on the whole, less unsatisfactory. Wise, Broughton, Patton, Healey, and Metzdorf offer fuller bibliographical descriptions, Healey especially, but in each case the bibliographers compiled catalogues of particular collections--the Ashley Library, the Cornell Wordsworth collection, the Amherst Wordsworth collection, and the Tinker Collection at Yale (Reed xi--xii). (2) They were not attempting a comprehensive bibliographical study of Wordsworth's separate printed publications. To an Americanist, this would seem an almost incomprehensible situation: Americanists have the extraordinary Bibliography of American Literature to depend on, as well as fine individual bibliographies for most major American writers. But for scholars trying to study Wordsworth's publication and reception history, both in his lifetime and especially in the years after his death, and for collectors and book-dealers trying to determine the rarity and value of particular books, there has been no single work to guide them.

With the publication of Mark Lafayette Reed's magnificent new Bibliography of William Wordsworth 1787-1930, all that has changed. Over a career of some 50 years, Reed has not been a 250-page-monograph kind of a scholar; instead, he has always published in twos--two volume sets, every two decades. His two-volume Wordsworth Chronology, published in 1967 and 1975, totals 1050 pages; his two-volume edition of the 13-Book Prelude, published in 1991 and the centerpiece of the Cornell Wordsworth, contains over 23 50 pages; his two volume Bibliography, the crown upon his lifetime's efforts, weighs in at something over half that, a mere 1238 pages, not counting the 125 pages of introduction and preliminaries. It is, and will remain, a foundational work for Wordsworth scholarship. No one, not even its reviewers, will read it straight through, cover to cover to cover to cover. But anyone serious about how Wordsworth presented himself to the public, or interested in how later publishers and editors repackaged and represented him after his death, will consult it; and everyone, from beginning graduate students to the most senior among us, should read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest Reed's learned introduction. At times oddly humorous, in a dry North Carolinian sort of a way, the introduction stands as the most important overview of Wordsworth's publication history ever written.

In this review essay, I will first look briefly at Reed's predecessors, and then turn to Reed's volumes and look closely at a handful of the most interesting entries. Rather than begin with all of the late 19th-century bibliographies, however, I will begin with William Knight's, published in his 1896 edition of Wordsworth's works. William Knight has received short shrift from 20th-century scholars, largely for losing and excerpting Dorothy Wordsworth's Alfoxden Journal, and mistranscribing scores of Wordsworth family manuscripts: "Chaos and old Knight" has been an inside joke among Wordsworth editors for generations. But his editorial efforts produced, Reed argues, "the first truly scholarly edition of Wordsworth" (1882-86), including a massive three-volume biography (1889). In that edition he attempted, for the first time, to present Wordsworth's poems in chronological order so that his poetical development could be studied (Reed cx, 618). (3) Seven years later, in 1896, Knight published a new edition of Wordsworth's works in a smaller and much cheaper format, heavily revised, rearranged, and with much new material in the headnotes and apparatus. …

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