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fondness for the poem. When he was asked to read something from his own poems, he usually chose" Guinevere," “ The Ode on Wellington," or "Maud.” Shortly after its publication he was given the degree of D. C. L. by the University of Oxford, the students receiving him with a great ovation and cheering" In Memoriam,”
"Inkerman," and “ Alma.”
Four years later, that is, in 1859, he published the first four of “ The Idylls of the King," in which he made an attempt, on the whole successful, to create a national English epic on the subject of King Arthur. Ten thousand copies were sold the first week. One line from the Idylls he usually wrote in autograph albums when unable to escape,“ He makes no friends who never made a foe.” He spelled Idylls with two l's when referring to his long idyls and with one i when referring to his short ones. The character of Sir Gareth was drawn as a model for his boys.
His next considerable poem, " Enoch Arden," was published in 1864. Sixty thousand copies were soon sold. He was called the poet of the people in consequence of this popularity. About the same time he wrote “ The Flower," which he described as a universal apologue. In 1865 he was offered a baronetcy, which he declined, and a membership in Dr. Johnson's club, which he accepted. In 1867 we find him writing to Longfellow: “We Englishmen and Americans should all be brothers as none others among the nations can be.” In 1868 it is recorded that he waltzed at a party. In the same year, on April 23, Shakespeare's birthday, he laid the foundation stone of a new house at Aldworth. He wanted shields on his mantel to represent Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe, and Wordsworth. He planted trees and watched them grow and obtained a sundial with the inscription, Horas non numero nisi serenas, “ The hours I do not record unless they are bright."
During the nine years between 1875 and 1884, Tennyson's chief literary occupation was the production of a series of historical plays which were designed to complete the cycle begun by Shakespeare. Of these “ Harold " deals with the making of England by the Danes, Saxons, and Normans; “ Beket,” with the early fight of church and state under Henry II; and “Mary," with the Reformation. Of
Harold,” Longfellow wrote to Tennyson: “ The fifth act is a masterpiece of dramatic writing. I know not where to look for anything better.” Of “Beket,” John Richard Green, the historian, said: " It is the most accurate picture of Henry II in existence.” On the stage it was one of Henry Irving's three most successful plays. One critic pronounced it better than Shakespeare's “ King John.” During those nine years, Tennyson also produced “The Revenge,” which every student should read and which caused Thomas Carlyle to say to him: “Eh! Alfred, you have got the grip of it.” For the most part, during this period, Tennyson lived happily at Aldworth, varying his retirement with occasional trips to the Continent. In 1875 he climbed an Alp 7000 feet high. He thought the best picture in Venice was Venice itself, as one glides in a gondola along the Grand Canal. In 1884 he was offered and accepted a Peerage. He took it at Gladstone's advice for his son's sake, but said that he would regret his simple name always.
In 1885 he published a new volume of poems called “ Teiresias ”; in 1886, “ Locksley Hall Sixty Years After ”; in 1889, “ Demeter”; and in 1892,“ The Death of Enone." These volumes contained some of his best work. In 1887, Tennyson met one of his old friends, Mrs. Proctor, and said to her, “I am 78 and you are 87, and in all probability we shall never meet again," to which she replied, “Don't you young folks be impertinent to your elders," a remark which greatly delighted him. In 1890 he composed“ Crossing the Bar.” When he first read it to his son Hallam, he said: “Mind you put it at the end of all editions of my poems.” “ It is the crown of your life's work,” replied Hallam. At this time he was in high spirits and liked to waltz, and would defy his friends to get up twenty times from a chair quickly without using their hands. He was much amused at an American who came to Aldworth, having worked his way across the Atlantic, to recite Maud to the author. He was so delighted, in fact, with the performance that he paid his visitor's fare back to America. He was greatly struck with the merit of Kipling's early work, and took occasion to assure him of his admiration, perhaps being mindful of the ten years of neglect which he himself had suffered between 1832 and !842. Kipling replied with courtly grace: “ The private in the
ranks cannot thank the general for his praise, but he fights the better for it."
Tennyson's death occurred October 7, 1892. The following item appeared in the newspapers at the time: “ Nothing could be more striking than the scene during the last few hours. On the bed a figure of breathing marble, flooded and bathed in the light of the full moon streaming through the oriel window, his hand clasping the volume of Shakespeare which he had called for. The moonlight, the majestic frame as he lay there, drawing thicker breath, irresistibly brought to our minds his own ‘ Passing of Arthur. He was buried in Westminster Abbey with “ Cymbeline ” and a laurel wreath from Virgil's tomb. Many were reading “In Memoriam " before the service. “Crossing the Bar” was sung. He lies next to Browning in front of Chaucer's monument. For weeks an endless procession passed his grave.
Tennyson has been fortunate in his biographer, Hallam Tennyson. In his “Memoirs of Alfred, Lord Tennyson," he has preserved a considerable amount of his father's conversation. It is a rich storehouse of wisdom, well worth reading for its intrinsic interest and invaluable as a portraiture of the man himself. The following fragments of his conversation will give the student some idea of its quality:
“Shakespeare is the man one would wish perhaps to show as a sample of mankind to those in another planet.”—“ Lycidas is a test of any reader's poetic instinct.”- Humour will be found even in the Gospel of Christ.”—“All life is a school, a preparation, a purpose; nor can we pass current in a higher college, if we do not undergo the tedium of education in this lower one.”—“ It is motive, it is the real purpose which consecrates life.”—“Prayer is our highest aspiration."
—“ A truthful man generally has all virtues.”_“Make the lives of children as beautiful as possible.”—“I never put two ss's together.” (He called getting rid of s sounds kicking the geese out of the boat.) -“The general English view of God is as of an immeasurable clergy
-“ England is the most beastly self-satisfied nation in the world.” The greatest inventor must have been the inventor of a wheel.” Contempt is a sure mark of a little mind.”—“ There's
more wisdom in Bacon's “Essays” than in any other book of the size.”—When asked if Bacon wrote Shakespeare, he said: Don't be a fool."
Of all our poets, Tennyson is perhaps the easiest to read. The student should drink deep at this Pierian spring. He may rest assured that he will find it at once refreshing and delightful. As a beginning, it will be well for him to read the poems mentioned in the“ suggested readings." When he has arrived this far, if he does not feel a strong desire to read more, he may be perfectly sure that his real vocation lies outside of the realms of literature.
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. Name ten great people born in 1809. 2. With how much enthusiasm were Poems, Chiefly Lyrical” accepted
by the public? What effect did the reception have upon the work
of Alfred Tennyson ? 3. In what year did Tennyson win his first recognition and with what
book? 4. At what stage of life were Ruskin, Carlyle, and Wordsworth at this
time? 5. What poem is thought to have won Tennyson his pension? 6. Tell of the relations between Arthur Henry Hallam and Tennyson. 7. Read ten of Tennyson's shorter poems and tell the class the especial
poetic attributes of each. 8. Recount to the class the story of “Enoch Arden.". 9. Which did you like better, the “ Idylls of the King” or Malory's “ King
Arthur”? 10. Outline Tennyson's life and describe the character of the man.
Suggested Readings.—“ The May Queen,”. “ The Lotus Eaters,” the “Morte d'Arthur," “ Ulysses,” Locksley Hall,” Sir Galahad,” “The Lord of Burleigh,” “ The Princess, Enoch Arden,” “The Brook,” Charge of the Light Brigade," Gareth and Lynette,” “ The Revenge,” “Crossing the Bar," and Maud ” will but introduce the reader to Tennyson's manifold attainments. _“Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a Memoir," by his son, is one of the greatest English biographies.
ROBERT BROWNING (1812–1889)
“ He has a mighty intellect.”—Tennyson.
“He was clever enough to understand his own poetry; and, he understood it, we can understand it.”—G. K. Chesterton.
“I like Browning; he isn't at all like a damned literary man.”—Lockhart.
“His genius is the least important thing about him.”—Mrs. Browning.
ROBERT BROWNING was born in Camberwell, a southern suburb of London, May 7, 1812. He was descended from a series of butlers, bank clerks, and innkeepers. His father, he said, had more poetic genius than he. At any rate he had enough interest in poetry to train his son to be a poet. The consequence was that, like Pope, Browning lisped in numbers, for the numbers came. At eight he had written a volume, which was handed about in manuscript. At that time he was wholly under Byron's influence, which distressed his father, who wanted him to imitate Pope. Up to 1826 he went to school at Dulwich; afterwards he had a tutor at home. He had no brother and one sister. His father had plenty of property to support both of them. Browning, therefore, decided that poetry should be his life-work. .
In 1825, he happened quite by accident to find the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley in a book-store on the Strand. The result was that he lost his admiration for Byron and his art was revolutionized. Shelley had been dead at this time for three years, but no bookseller in London had heard of him or his works. Robert's mother picked up for him, at the same time, the works of another equally unknown poet, a Mr. John Keats. There is a lesson in this incident for those who are discouraged owing to lack of appreciation. Shelley and Keats are now recognized as among the greatest masters of the English language.
In 1829 and 1830 Browning attended lectures at University College, London. In 1832 he went to live at Richmond. Here,