Critical Edition of the Poetical Works of William Falconer

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This is the first ever scholarly edition of Falconer’s poetry. After an account of Falconer’s life and reputation, this study concentrates on Falconer’s masterwork, The Shipwreck, an autobiographical narrative of a disastrous shipwreck in 1749, of which Falconer was one of three survivors. The poem is unique in its autobiographical/narrative/didactic/epic character. The poem survives in three distinct and much modified versions. The study also examines some of Falconer’s other minor poetry.


“The textual history of The Shipwreck is complex, and this comprehensive edition displays the development of the poem – and indeed the poet – in an extremely interesting manner. The commentary is extensive, and enables the reader fully to understand the nautical terms and procedures as well as the literary sources that Falconer used in his self-education as a poet. Essays on aspects of Falconer’s live and art provide a biographical and critical context for assessment of the work as poet, self-educated writer, nautical scientist and educator….. a first-rate piece of scholarship and will make a real and valuable contribution not only to 18th century literary studies but also to maritime history.” – Martin Corrick

“Professor Jones’s edition would make Falconer’s work available to a new generation of scholars and readers of eighteenth-century poetry, who will find in it both material for further study and the pleasure to be derived from an accomplished poet who was also an experienced sailor, and who renders with great vividness and energy the dramatic events that were the inspiration for The Shipwreck…. meticulous textual scholarship and illuminating introductions and explanatory notes.” – Peter Preston

Table of Contents

Foreword; Preface
• Falconer’s Life
• Falconer’s Reputation
• The Shipwreck: Composition and Publication; Didacticism; Terms of Art
• The Shipwreck as Epic
• The Poems
• The Shipwreck (A Chart of the Ship’s Path, Cantos, Occasional Elegy)
• Minor poems: Frederic Prince of Wales; Ode on the Duke of York; The Demagogue; Demagogue B; ‘A Sea Chaplain’s Petition’; ‘Description of a Ninety Gun Ship’; ‘The Fond Lover’; ‘An Address to his Mistress’; ‘The Midshipman’
• The Shipwreck: Commentary
• Minor Poems: Commentary
Appendices; Bibliography; Index

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