“EMOTION RECOLLECTED IN TRANQUILITY”: EXCEEDINGLY SCARCE AND IMPORTANT LYRICAL BALLADS, 1800, ONE OF ONLY 500 COPIES, WITH WORDSWORTH’S FAMOUS PREFACE—“MANIFESTO OF THE ROMANTIC POETS”
WORDSWORTH, William and COLERIDGE, Samuel Taylor. Lyrical Ballads, with Other Poems. London: T.N. Longman and O. Rees, 1800. Two volumes in one. Small octavo (4 by 6-1/4 inches), 19th-century full straight-grain burgundy morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, raised bands, all edges gilt. Housed in a custom slipcase and clamshell box.
First complete edition of this touchstone of English Romanticism, containing the first appearance of Wordsworth’s landmark Preface—boldly “defining his theory of poetry… Wordsworth’s revolt against 18th-century artificiality” (PMM)—a most desirable copy with both volumes handsomely bound in one richly elegant, gilt-stamped morocco volume.
In the 1798 one-volume first edition of Lyrical Ballads the poets rejected classical principles of beauty and formal style, choosing instead to write in the language of ordinary people and elevate their lives. Amazingly, that edition was such a financial disaster that Longman, upon purchasing the printer’s rights from Joseph Cottle, valued it at “nothing” and sent it back to Wordsworth for revision. “This was fortunate for Wordsworth… and fortunate for posterity.” For this 1800 edition contains the first appearance of Wordsworth’s “famous Preface defining his theory of poetry… expressed in such phrases as that poetry ‘takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.” With this Preface Worthsworth “set a new tone; and it became in effect the revolutionary manifesto of the romantic poets.” This is the complete second edition (the preferred edition), with both volumes handsomely bound in one. Wordsworth’s Preface, in which he stages a “revolt against 18th-century artificiality,” marks the beginning of the Romantic Movement in English literature (PMM256; italics added). To T.S. Eliot: “Wordsworth is really the first… to annex new authority for the poet” (Uses of Poetry). Leaf a3 of Volume I is a cancel. First state of Volume II, with ten lines on page 210, omitting 15 lines of “Michael.” Volume I without advertisement leaf; Volume II with errata at rear. PMM 256. Broughton 7. Rothschild 2603. Wise, 6-8. Engraved bookplate with Henry Duke in manuscript signature: with Ovid’s “Spectemur agendo” (Let us be judged by our acts) printed on bookplate banner.
Text generally fine. A beautiful copy.