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The late D. F. McKenzie worked on this comprehensive edition of the works of the playwright, poet, librettist, and novelist William Congreve for more than twenty years, until his sudden death in 1999. This was a task he had taken over from Herbert Davis, to whom this edition is dedicated. During that time McKenzie uncovered new verse and letters, collated Congreve's texts, recorded their complicated textual history, constructed appendices that shed light on the dramatic context in which Congreve worked, and examined how his contemporaries received Congreve's work. More importantly, McKenzie has convincingly re-evaluated Congreve's works and life to transform our image of the man and his reputation.
McKenzie here follows the editorial practice suggested in two early editions of the Works published by Congreve's friend, the bookseller Jacob Tonson, in 1710 and 1719. These three volumes follow a plan similar to that in the Tonson edition, with The Old Batchelor, The Double-Dealer, and Love for Love collected in the first, a central volume with The Way of the World, and a final volume with Congreve's novel Incognita, some of his prose works, letters, and later verse. In each case, Congreve's work is left to speak for itself, unencumbered by intrusive notes, textual apparatus, or collations, which are gathered instead near the end of each volume.
This edition will be an invaluable resource for scholars for many years to come. It is a monument to McKenzie's own scholarship as well as to the integrity of William Congreve.
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D. F. McKenzie was the leading bibliographer of his generation, and his Panizzi Lectures on "Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts" revolutionized Anglo-American approaches to bibliography and the history of the book. He was a most stimulating and influential teacher: at the Victoria University of Wellington, where he was Professor of English Language and Literature 1969-87, and in Oxford, as Lyell Reader in Bibliography and as Professor of Bibliography and Textual Criticism. He was the driving force in the planning of the multi-volume Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. The McKenzie Trust was established after his death to promote excellence in teaching and research and there is an annual McKenzie Lecture in Oxford in June.
The new edition of [Congreve's] works, edited by D.F. McKenzie, does him full justice. It identifies and explains every topical allusion and informs us of every word that has slightly changed its meaning during the intervening centuries. All that Congreve wrote is printed in an accurate text, and everything written or said about him during his lifetime is made available. His debt to his predecessors, including Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, is acknowledged and displayed. * Charles Rosen, New York Review of Books *
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