Date of this Version
Documentary Editing, Volume 23, Number 1, March 2001.
ISSN 2476-1796 (electronic); ISSN 2167-1451 (print)
The Cornell Wordsworth is one of the most ambitious and, on the whole, one of the most successful multi-volume literary editions of our time. Nearly forty years ago, General Editor Stephen M. Parrish and other senior Wordsworthians conceived the project as a way to rescue the reputation of William Wordsworth (WW) from what they regarded as his mistaken tendency to age his poems as though they were fine wine by repeatedly revising them (some for . nineteen years or more) before he finally released them for publication. An original aim of the Cornell Wordsworth was, therefore, to make available from Wordsworth's MSS what Parrish in his foreword now terms "the original, often thought the best, versions of his work." After gaining access to the major collections of the poet's MSS and securing support for the years of research and complicated publication, the editors brought out the first two volumes--The Salisbury Plain Poems (1975) edited by Stephen Gill and the two-part ur-version of The Prelude, 1798-1799, edited by Parrish (1977)-with two further documentary volumes still in preparation and an index volume slated to conclude the edition. Since then seventeen more volumes have appeared, including the subject of the present review. I previously vetted the first two volumes of the series in 1977 and the third title at the proof-stage for the MLA's Center for Scholarly Editions (CSE) and reviewed another volume in 1982 for Studies in Romanticism.1 Thus, when I was asked to review Last Poems, I was happy to renew my acquaintance with the series in its later stages and am now delighted to bring the Cornell Wordsworth to the attention of those readers of Documentary Editing who are not familiar with it.