Robert Bell, The Annotated Edition of the English Poets. 29 Numbers; 15 bound Volumes (London: John W. Parker and Son, 1854-57)

Information about the collection: The volumes are listed in numerical order even though it would be more accurate to label tham as works in a series; that is, number 6 of the whole series is volume 1 of the complete poetical works of Chaucer. The first volume of an author's collected (often called "complete") works is preceded by a biographical and critical "memoir" by Bell, at times as long as 100 pp. The individual volumes are about 200 pp. each and up to three, but usually two, are now bound together in one longer volume. Issued in monthly volumes, 2s. 6d. each, in cloth. The following quote from Sir James Stephen on desultory and systematic reading is also found in almost every individual volume, either on the title page or as the frontispiece:  "I hold that no man can have any just conception of the History of England who has not often read, and meditated, and learnt to love the great Poets of England. The greatest of them, such as Chaucer, Dryden, Pope, and Burns, often throw more rich and brilliant colours, and sometimes even more clear and steady lights, on the times and doings of our forefathers, than are to be gathered out of all the chroniclers together, from the Venerable Bede to the Philosophical Hume. They are at least the greatest and best commentators on those chroniclers."

Prefatory Advertisement (in each volume):  The necessity for a revised and carefully Annotated Edition of the English Poets may be found in the fact, that no such publication exists. The only Collections we possess consist of naked and frequently imperfect Texts, put forth without sufficient literary supervision. Independently of other defects, these voluminous Collections are incomplete as a whole, from their omissions of many Poets whose works are of the highest interest, while the total absence of critical and illustrative Notes renders them comparatively worthless to the Student of our National Literature.

A few of our Poets have been edited separately by men well qualified for the undertaking, and selected Specimens have appeared, accompanied by notices, which, as far as they go, answer the purpose for which they were intended. But these do not supply the want which is felt of a Complete Body of English Poetry, edited throughout with judgment and integrity, and combining those features of research, typographical elegance, and economy of price, which the present age demands.

The Edition now proposed will be distinguished from all preceding Editions in many important respects. It will include the works of several Poets entirely omitted from previous Collections, especially those stores of Lyrical and Ballad Poetry in which our Literature is richer than that of any other Country, and which, independently of their poetical claims, are peculiarly interesting as illustrations of Historical Events and National Customs.

By the exercise of a strict principle of selection, this Edition will be rendered intrinsically more valuable than any of its predecessors. The Text will in all instances be scrupulously collated, and accompanied by Biographical, Critical, and Historical Notes.

An Introductory Volume will present a succinct account of English Poetry from the earliest times down to a period which will connect it with the Series of the Poets, through whose Lives the History of our Poetical Literature will be continued to the present time. Occasional volumes will be introduced, in which Specimens, with connecting Notices and Commentaries, will be given of those Poets whose works are not of sufficient interest to be reproduced entire. The important materials gathered from previously unexplored sources by the researches of the last quarter of a century will be embodied wherever they may be available in the general design and by these means it is hoped that the Collection will be more complete than any that has been hitherto attempted, and that it will be rendered additionally acceptable as comprising in its course a Continuous History of English Poetry.

By the arrangements that will be adopted, the Works of the principal Poets may be purchased separately and independently of the rest. The Occasional Volumes, containing, according to circumstances, Poetry of a particular Class or Period, Collections illustrative of Customs, Manners, and Historical events, or Specimens, with Critical Annotations, of the Minor Poets, will also be complete in themselves.

As the works of each Poet, when completed, will be independent of the rest, although ultimately falling into their place in the Series, they will be issued irrespective of chronological sequence. This arrangement will present a greater choice and variety in the selection from month to month of poets of different styles and periods, and at the same time enable the Editor to take advantage of all new sources of information that may be opened to him in the progress of publication. General Title-pages will be finally supplied for combining a whole Collection into a chronological Series.

Table of Contents: 

Number 1 Early Ballads Illustrative of History, Traditions and Customs 50 ballads; no authors listed
Number 2 Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England "taken down from oral recitation and transcribed from private manuscripts, rare broadsides and scarce publication"
Number 3 Poetical Works of Samuel Butler Memoir; Hudibras. In Three Parts
Number 4 Poetical Works of Samuel Butler Hudibras, cont.
Number 5 Poetical Works of Samuel Butler The Elephant in the Moon; Satires; Odes; Ballads
Number 6 Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer "all the poems which appear entitled, from internal or external evidence, to be considered genuine"
Number 7 Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales, cont.
Number 8 Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales, cont.
Number 9 Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales, cont.; The Court of Love; The Assembly of Foules; The Flower and the Leaf
Number 10 Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer Troylus and Cryseyde
Number 11 Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer Troylus and Cryseyde, cont.; Chaucer's Dreme
Number 12 Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer The Romaunt of the Rose
Number 13 Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer The Legende of Goode Women; Minor Poems
Number 14 Poetical Works of William Cowper Including Olney Hymns
Number 15 Poetical Works of William Cowper Including the first half of The Task
Number 16 Poetical Works of William Cowper Including the second half of The Task
Number 17 missing since 1978
Number 18 missing since 1978
Number 19 Poetical Works of John Dryden Incl. the first 2 parts of Absalom and Achitophel
Number 20 Poetical Works of John Dryden Incl. The Hind and the Panther; Fables; and Tales from Chaucer
Number 21 Poetical Works of John Dryden Tales from Chaucer; Translations from Boccace; Epitaphs and Incriptions; Lyrics; Prologues and Epilogues
Number 22 Poems of Robert Greene and Christopher Marlowe All of Greene and 5 poems from Marlowe, incl. Hero and Leander
Number 23 Poetical Works of Ben Jonson Epigrams; The Forest; Underwoods
Number 24 out to repro
Number 25 out to repro
Number 26 Poetical Works of James Thomson Incl. Pastorlas; Amanda; Songs; Songs in the Masque of Alfred; Prologues and Epilogues
Number 27 Poetical Works of James Thomson The Seasons; The Castle of Indolence
Number 28 Poetical Works of Sir Thomas Wyatt Songs and Sonnets; Rondeaux; Odes; Poems; Songs and Epigrams; Satires; Penitential Psalms
Number 29 Poetical Works of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, Minor Contemporary Poets, and Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst 200 pp. of H.H.; Grimoald, Lord Vaux and Uncertain Authors; Industion to the Mirror of the Magistrates (Sackville)

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