About the Poem

Francis Towne (1740-1816). Windermere at Sunset, 1786. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

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.

The Prelude is the greatest and most original of English autobiographies.
Sir Frank Kermode
British literary critic
In imaginative power, he stands nearest of all modern writers to Shakespeare and Milton; and yet in a kind perfectly unborrowed and his own.
S.T. Coleridge
English Poet (1772-1834)
Regarded as Wordsworth’s masterpiece, and one of the great long poems in English literature . . .
Nicholas Halmi
Professor of English and Comparative Literature; Margaret Candfield Tutorial Fellow, University College