The Prelude: The Four Texts (1798, 1799, 1805, 1850)

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Penguin Books Limited, 1995 - Literary Criticism - 667 pages
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First published in July 1850, shortly after Wordsworth's death, The Prelude was the culmination of over fifty years of creative work. The great Romantic poem of human consciousness, it takes as its theme 'the growth of a poet's mind': leading the reader back to Wordsworth's formative moments of childhood and youth, and detailing his experiences as a radical undergraduate in France at the time of the Revolution. Initially inspired by Coleridge's exhortation that Wordsworth write a work upon the French Revolution, The Prelude has ultimately become one of the finest examples of poetic autobiography ever written; a fascinating examination of the self that also presents a comprehensive view of the poet's own creative vision.

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About the author (1995)

William Wordsworth was born in the Lake District in April 1770, and died there eighty years later on 23 April 1850. He had three brothers and a sister, Dorothy, to whom throughout his life he was especially close. When she was six, and he was nearly eight, their mother died. Dorothy was sent away to be brought up by relatives, and a year later William was sent to Hawkshead Grammar School, scene of the great childhood episodes of The Prelude.

Wordsworth was cared for in lodgings and led a life of exceptional freedom, roving over the fells that surround the village. The death of his father, agent to the immensely powerful landowner Sir James Lowther, broke in on this happiness when he was thirteen, but did not halt the education through nature that complemented his Hawkshead studies and became the theme of his poetry.

At Cambridge, Wordsworth travelled (experiencing the French Revolution at first hand) and wrote poetry. His twenties were spent as a wanderer, in France, Wales, London, the Lakes, Dorset and Germany. In France he fathered a child whom he did not meet till she was nine because of the War. In 1795 he was reunited with Dorothy, and met Coleridge, with whom he published Lyrical Ballads in 1898, and to whom he addressed The Prelude, his epic study of human consciousness.

In the last days of the century Wordsworth and Dorothy found a settled home a

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