The Poems of Browning: Volume Five
The Ring and the Book, Books 1-6
- Available for pre-order. Item will ship after March 15, 2022
The Ring and the Book, published serially in 1868-9, is one of the most daring and innovative poems in the English language. The story is based on the trial of an Italian nobleman, Guido Franceschini, for the murder of his wife Pompilia in Rome in 1698. Browning’s discovery of the ‘old yellow book’, a bundle of legal documents and letters relating to the trial, on a second-hand market stall in Florence, sparked an imaginative engagement with this sordid tale of domestic cruelty, adultery, and greed which grew, through four years of arduous labour, into an epic peopled not by gods and warriors but by concrete, recognizably human beings. Fusing the technique of the dramatic monologue, the form he had made his own, with the grandeur of classical epic and the vivid realism of the modern novel, Browning created a unique hybrid form that allowed him not only to bring to life an entire historical period but also to reflect on the process of artistic creation itself – the forging of the golden ‘ring’ of the poem from the ‘pure crude fact’ of its historical original.
This edition, comprising volumes 5 and 6 in the acclaimed Longman Annotated English Poets edition of Browning’s poems, does full justice to the scope and depth of Browning’s achievement. The headnote in volume 5 gives an authoritative account of the poem’s composition, publication, sources, and reception, making use of hitherto unpublished letters and textual material. In addition to giving readers help, where needed, with historical and linguistic comprehension, the notes track Browning’s formidable range of allusion, from the most erudite to the most vulgar. The appendices in volume 6 present a selection from the original sources, a list of variants from extant proofs, and key passages from Browning’s fascinating and revealing correspondence with one of the earliest readers of the poem, Julia Wedgwood. The aim is to enable readers not just to understand the poem as an object of study, but to take pleasure in its abounding intellectual and emotional energies.
Table of Contents
Chronology Abbreviations The Ring and the Book Headnote Book 1: The Ring and the Book Book 2: Half-Rome Book 3: Other Half-Rome Book 4: Tertium Quid Book 5: Count Guido Franceschini Book 6: Giuseppe Caponsacchi Book 7: Pompilia Book 8: Dominus Hyacinthus de Archangelis, Pauperum Procurator Book 9: Juris Doctor Johannes-Baptista Bottinius, Fisci et Rev. Cam. Apostol. Advocatus Book 10: The Pope Book 11: Guido Book 12: The Book and the Ring Appendix A: Translations of the Old Yellow Book Appendix B: Morte Dell’ Uxoricida Guido Franceschini Decapitato [The Death of the Wife-Murderer Guido Franceschini, by Beheading] (The ‘Secondary Source’ of The Ring and the Book) Appendix C: The depositions of Francesca (Pompilia) and Caponsacchi in the Old Yellow Book Appendix D: Authorial Variants in the First American Edition Appendix E: Variants in Yale sheets Appendix F: Selections from Browning’s correspondence with Julia Wedgwood
John Woolford is Emeritus Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture at the University of Manchester and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield, UK.
Daniel Karlin is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Bristol, UK, and a Fellow of the British Academy.
Joseph Phelan is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at De Montfort University, UK.