Helen Maria Williams’s epic poem Peru, first published in 1784, movingly recounts the story of Francisco Pizarro’s brutal conquest and exploitation of the Incas and their subsequent revolt against Spain. Like William Wordsworth, who revised The Prelude over the course of his life, Williams revisited her epic several times within almost four decades, transforming it with each revision. It began as an ambitious poetic blueprint for revolution—in terms of politics, gender, religion, and genre. By the time it appeared in 1823, under the title “Peruvian Tales” in her last poetry collection, Williams’s voice had become more moderate, more restrained; in her words, her muse had become “timid,” reflecting the cultural shift that had taken place in England since the poem’s earliest publication.
This edition includes both versions of the poem, along with extensive examples of Williams’s literary sources, other poetic works, and the many and varied critical responses from contemporary reviewers.
“Paula R. Feldman’s edition of Williams’ poem and related works is impeccably presented; the apparatus is erudite yet accessible. More important, Peru is a fascinating and satisfying read, worthy of the impressive treatment afforded it here. This edition makes available an important poem in the history of the epic and of European colonialism and provides a wealth of contextual material that shows just how necessary this book is for readers, students, and instructors of British Romanticism.” — Daniel Robinson, Homer C. Nearing Jr. Distinguished Professor of English at Widener University
“Paula R. Feldman and her collaborators are to be congratulated for this exemplary edition of Helen Maria Williams’s Peru and Peruvian Tales. They have advanced our understanding of Romantic-period women writers, of the history of the epic, and of Frankenstein’s Creature’s wish to retire to the ‘vast wilds of South America.’” — Jeanne Moskal, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Editor of the Keats-Shelley Journal
“This new edition of two of Helen Maria Williams’s most interesting poems, Peru (1784; 1786) and ‘Peruvian Tales’ (her 1823 revision of Peru), does justice both to Williams’s originals and to the reputation of Broadview books for producing texts of high editorial quality which are useful to both students and teachers. As we have come to expect of Broadview’s editions, Paula Feldman’s volume includes not only highly-readable annotated primary texts, but a veritable cornucopia of secondary and contextual materials in four appendices.” — Kerri Andrews, The Byron Journal