The Prelude

The Prelude, William Wordsworth’s masterful autobiographical work, composed in blank verse, is generally considered the poem at the heart of the Romantic movement and one of the great poems in the English language. In this fully illustrated and annotated edition, it finally receives the treatment it deserves. Inspired by his dear friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the poem charts the development of the author’s mind, from childhood to Cambridge, London, the Alps, and France, touching on subjects ranging from leisure to literature, nature to imagination, and everything in between. A meditation on the self, this work still stands as a masterpiece of English literature, and is here complemented and enhanced by 200 contemporary color plates that both illuminate and elucidate the text. Scrupulously selected and edited from the definitive manuscripts in existence, the marginal notes and glosses provide an extra touch that makes this a truly enlightening reading experience.

Meanwhile, my hope has been that I might fetch
Invigorating thoughts from former years,
Might fix the wavering balance of my mind,
And haply meet reproaches, too, whose power
May spur me on, in manhood now mature,
To honourable toil.

Regarded as Wordsworth’s masterpiece, and one of the great long poems in English literature . . .—Nicholas Halmi

These offer to the American reader’s eye an array of scenes indispensable to an understanding of Wordsworth’s world—lakes, crags, nocturnes, ships at sea, the Alps, Stonehenge, Revolutionary France, Cambridge, London. At last—with Engell’s eloquent and succinct introduction, helpful marginal glosses, notes, a chronology, and maps—American readers and students have a Prelude of their own.

—Helen Vendler, The New York Review of Books

William Wordsworth (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850) was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads (1798). Wordsworth’s magnum opus is generally considered to be The Prelude, a semiautobiographical poem of his early years that he revised and expanded a number of times. It was posthumously titled and published, before which it was generally known as “the poem to Coleridge.” Wordsworth was Britain’s Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death in 1850.