William Wordsworth's "The Prelude"

Wordsworth (drawing)

A reading by members of the Faculty of English at Cambridge

Tuesday 26 October 2010 saw a marathon event in the Faculty of English. Faculty members read all of Wordsworth's substantial poem "The Prelude" live and online. The entire reading took approximately ten hours.

This reading is a deliberate sequel to our reading of Milton's great poem "Paradise Lost" (twelve hours long) in 2008, which was part of the celebrations for Milton's four-hundredth birthday.

Wordsworth fought as a poet to break free from Milton's influence, and yet he chose to write his greatest poem, "The Prelude", in a style which imitates - and in some lines, directly borrows from - Milton's poem.

Yet the topic is totally different. "The Prelude" is an autobiography, and surveys Wordsworth's childhood, time in Cambridge and early travels. It thinks through his ideas about the imagination, individual poetic genius, revolution and youthful rebellion, writing's relationship to everyday life, the awesomeness of nature, and in particular the Lake District (which Wordsworth and his friends made famous). We'll be reading the version which Wordsworth wrote in 1805, while he was at the height of his poetic powers. (He later rewrote and, in most people's opinion, ruined, the poem as he aged.)

The readers include thirteen members of the Faculty of English in Cambridge, including several authorities on Wordsworth such as Prof. Heather Glen and Dr Philip Connell, and on the Romantic poets more generally, such as Dr Mina Gorji and Dr Paul Chirico.


Book First - Introduction: Childhood and School-timeDr Daniel Wakelin
Book Second - School-time Continued Prof. Adrian Poole
Book Third - Residence at Cambridge Prof. Heather Glen
Book Fourth - Summer Vacation Prof. Angela Leighton
Book Sixth - Cambridge and the Alps Prof. Helen Cooper
Book Seventh - Residence in London Dr Paul Chirico
Book Eighth - Retrospect: Love of Nature Leading to Love of Mankind Dr Mina Gorji (and the students of Pembroke College)
Book Ninth - Residence in France Dr Sophie Read
Book Tenth - Residence in France and French Revolution Dr Eric Griffiths
Book Eleventh - Imagination, How Impaired and Restored Dr Clive Wilmer
Book Twelfth - Same Subject (Continued) Dr Christopher Tilmouth
Book Thirteenth - Conclusion Dr Philip Connell