Jon Stallworthy’s Wilfred Owen, called by Graham Greene ‘surely one of the finest biographies of our time’, won the Duff Cooper Prize, the W.H. Smith Literary Award, and the E.M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In its use of verse manuscripts to reveal the working of the creative imagination, it inaugurated a new form of literary biography.
By matching the paper, pencil, ink and twenty-four watermarks of the largely undated manuscripts with those of the poet’s dated letters, Professor Stallworthy has been able to disentangle the complex chronology of Owen’s work and reveal for the first time the overall development of the poet and successive stages in the development of individual poems and fragments.
The edition is divided into two volumes to enable readers to have text, notes and manuscript material before them at the same time. Volume I contains an Introduction, a Biographical Table, and the text of 110 poems (many with important new readings), and supporting factual and critical notes. Volume II provides the basis for the text of the poems, reproducing many of the manuscripts and the fragments, annotated like the poems. The manuscripts and fragments are reproduced in typeset transcription, showing Owen’s alterations, cancellations and reworkings.
Together these volumes present more than twice the number of poems and fragments hitherto available, and comprise the most comprehensive and detailed edition of Wilfred Owen's work. It is a worthy monument to a man who lived to see only five of his poems in print, but whose work is now known throughout the English-speaking world, and indeed beyond it as the text of Benjamin Britten’s great War Requiem.