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Keywords:

  • Wordsworth;
  • Prelude;
  • manuscript;
  • book;
  • print culture;
  • Dream of the Arab

This essay asks why Wordsworth did not publish his autobiographical poem, The Prelude, in 1805 when it was all but completed, but postponed publication indefinitely. It suggests that this is a complex question that needs a complex answer. The answer must take into consideration at least sociological aspects having to do with the literary marketplace, and metaphysical aspects having to do with the extent to which personal ‘presence’ is established in a work in manuscript as opposed to one published as a printed book around 1800. Having dealt with this material in its first part, in its second part the essay suggests that this question and its multiple answers are part of the meaning of one of the poem’s cruxes, the so-called Dream of the Arab.