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DURING the decade between 1879 and 1889 I was engaged in a detailed study of Wordsworth; and, amongst other things, edited a library edition of his Poetical Works in eight volumes, including the "Prefaces" and "Appendices" to his Poems, and a few others of his Prose Works, such as his Description of the Scenery of the Lakes in the North of England. This edition was published by Mr. Paterson, Edinburgh, at intervals between the years 1882 and 1886: and it was followed in 1889 by a Life of Wordsworth, in three volumes, which was a continuation of the previous eight.
The present edition is not a reproduction of those eleven volumes of 1882-9. It is true that to much of the editorial material included in the latter
-as well as in my Memorials of Coleorton, and in The English Lake District as interpreted in the Poems of Wordsworth—I can add little that is new; but the whole of what was included in these books has been revised, corrected, and readjusted in this one.1 Errata in the previous volumes are corrected:
1 In addition to my own detection of errors in the text and notes to the editions 1882-9, I acknowledge special obligation to the late Vice-Chancellor of the Victoria University, Principal Greenwood, who went over every volume with laborious care, and sent me the result. To the late Mr. J. Dykes Campbell, to Mr. J. R. Tutin, to the Rev. Thomas Hutchinson of Kimbolton, and to many others, I am similarly indebted.
several thousand new notes have been added, many of the old ones are entirely recast: the changes of text, introduced by Wordsworth into the successive editions of his Poems, have all been revised; new readings derived from many MS. sources -have been added: while the chronological order of the Poems has, in several instances, been changed, in the light of fresh evidence.
The distinctive features of my edition of 1882-6 were stated in the Preface to its first volume. So far as these features remain in the present edition, they may be repeated as follows:
First, the Poems are arranged in chronological order of composition, not of publication. In all the collective editions issued by Wordsworth during his lifetime, the arrangement of his poems in artificial groups, based on their leading characteristics - a plan first adopted in 1815-was adhered to; although he not unfrequently transferred a poem from one group to another. Here they are printed, with one or two exceptions to be afterwards explained, in the order in which they were written.
Second, the changes of text made by Wordsworth in the successive editions of his Poems, are given in footnotes, with the dates of the changes.
Third, suggested changes, written by the Poet on a copy of the stereotyped edition of 1836-7-long kept at Rydal Mount, and bought, after Mrs. Wordsworth's death, at the sale of a portion of the Library at the Mount-are given in footnotes.
Fourth, the Notes dictated by Wordsworth to Miss Isabella Fenwick-a dear friend of the Rydal Mount household, and a woman of remarkable character and faculty—which tell the story of his Poems, and the circumstances under which each was written, are printed in full.
Fifth, Topographical Notes-explanatory of allusions
made by Wordsworth to localities in the Lake District of England, to places in Scotland, Somersetshire, Yorkshire, the Isle of Man, and others on the Continent of Europe-are given, either at the close of the Poem in which the allusions occur, or as footnotes to the passages they illustrate.
Sixth, several complete Poems, and other fragments of verse, not included in any edition of his Works published during Wordsworth's lifetime, or since, are printed as an appendix to Volume VIII.
Seventh, a new Bibliography of the Poems and Prose Works, and of the several editions issued in England and America, from 1793 to 1850, is added.
Eighth, a new Life of the Poet is given.
These features of the edition of 1882-6 are preserved in that of 1896, and the following are added::
First, The volumes are published, not in library 8vo size, but—as the works of every poet should be issued-in one more convenient to handle, and to carry. Eight volumes are devoted to the Poetical Works, and among them are included those fragments by his sister Dorothy, and others, which Wordsworth published in his lifetime among his own Poems. They are printed in the chronological order of composition, so far as that is known.
Second, In the case of each Poem, any Note written by Wordsworth himself, as explanatory of it, comes first, and has the initials W. W., with the date of its first insertion placed after it. Next follows the Fenwick Note, within square brackets, thus [ ], and signed I. F.; and, afterwards, any editorial note required. When, however, Wordsworth's own notes were placed at the end of the Poems, or at the foot of the page, his plan is adopted, and the date appended.
I should have been glad, had it been possible—the editors of the twentieth century may note this—to print Wordsworth's own notes, the Fenwick notes, and the Editor's in different type, and in type of a decreasing size; but the idea occurred to me too late, i.e. after the first volume had been passed for press.
Third, All the Prose Works of Wordsworth are given in full, and follow the Poems, in two volumes. The Prose Works were collected by Dr. Grosart, and published in 1876. Extracts from them have since been edited by myself and others: but they will now be issued, like the Poems, in chronological order, under their own titles, and with such notes as seem desirable.
Fourth, All the Journals written by Dorothy Wordsworth at Alfoxden, Dove Cottage, and elsewhere, as well as her record of Tours with her brother in Scotland, on the Continent, etc., are published some of them in full, others only in part. An explanation of why any Journal is curtailed will be found in the editorial note preceding it. Much new material will be found in these Journals.
Fifth, The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth—with a few from Mary and Dora Wordsworth
are arranged chronologically, and published by themselves. Hitherto, these letters have been scattered in many quarters—in the late Bishop of Lincoln's Memoirs of his uncle, in The Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson, in the Memorials of Coleorton and my own Life of the Poet, in the Prose Works, in the Transactions of the Wordsworth Society, in the Letters of Charles Lamb, in the Memorials of Thomas De Quincey, and other volumes; but many more, both of Wordsworth's and his sister's, have never before seen the light. More than a hundred