Page images

So much for the poetry; but still where is the poet? It may be supposed, by what has already been said, that he is not very readily to be found. Next to nothing has yet been known of him or his haunts. It has been said that his poetry showed from internal evidence that he came somewhere out of the fens. In three-fourths of his verses there is something about "glooming flats," "the clustered marish-mosses❞—a poplar, a water-loving tree, that

[blocks in formation]

"A still salt pool, locked in with bars of sand;
Left on the shore."

These images show a familiarity with fen-lands, and flat sea-coast, to a certainty; but Alfred Tennyson, after all, though a Lincolnshire man, is not a native of the fens. He was born near enough to know them well, but not in them. His native place is Somersby, a little village lying about midway between the market towns of Spilsby and Horncastle, and containing less than a hundred inhabitants. His father, George Clayton Tennyson, LL.D., was rector of that and the adjoining parish of Enderby. He was a man of very various talentssomething of a poet, a painter, an architect, and a musician. He was also a considerable linguist and mathematician. Dr. Tennyson was the elder brother of Mr. Tennyson D'Eyncourt. Alfred Tennyson, one of several children, was born at the parsonage at Somersby, of which a view stands at the head of this chapter. From the age of seven till about nine or ten, he went to the grammar-school of Louth, in the same county, and after that returned home, and was educated by his father, till he went to Trinity College, Cambridge.

The native village of Tennyson is not situated in the fens, but in a pretty pastoral district of softly sloping hills and large ash-trees. It is not based on bogs, but on a clean sandstone. There is a little glen in the neighbourhood, called by the old monkish name of Holywell. Over the gateway leading to it, some bygone squire has put up an inscription, a medley of Virgil and Horace

"Intus aquæ dulces, vivoque sedilia saxo

Et paulum silvæ superest. His utere mecum;"

and within, a stream of clear water gushes out of a sand-rock, and over it stands an old school-house, almost lost among the trees, and of late years used as a wood-house, its former distinction only signified by a scripture text on the walls—“ Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth." There are also two brooks in this valley, which flow into one at the bottom of the glebe-field, and by these the young poet used to wander and meditate. To this scenery we find him turning back in his Ode to Memory :

"Come from the woods that belt the grey hill side,

The seven elms, the poplars four

That stand beside my father's door,
And chiefly from the brook that loves

To purl o'er matted cress and ribbed sand,
Or dimple in the dark of rushy coves,
Drawing into his narrow earthen urn,
In every elbow and turn,

The filtered tribute of the rough woodlands.
O! hither lead thy feet!

Pour round mine ears the livelong bleat
Of the thick-fleeced sheep from wattled folds
Upon the ridged wolds,

When the first matin-song hath wakened loud
Over the dark dewy earth forlorn,

What time the amber morn

Forth gushes from beneath a low-hung cloud."

In the churchyard stands a Norman cross, almost single of its kind in England.

Alfred Tennyson spent some years in London, and he may be traced to Hastings, Eastbourne, Cheltenham, and the like places. He resided some time at Montpelier-row, Twickenham, and he now resides at Farringford, in the Isle of Wight. Still, it is very possible you may come across him in a country inn, with a foot on each hob of the fireplace, a volume of Greek in one hand, his meerschaum in the other, so far advanced towards the seventh heaven, that he would not thank you to call him back into this nether world. Wherever he is, however, in some still nook of enormous London, or the stiller one of some far-off sea-side hamlet, he is pondering a lay for eternity

"Losing his fire and active might

In a silent meditation,

Falling into a still delight

And luxury of contemplation."

Having had an uncle in Parliament, Tennyson has received more government patronage than any other poet that we can call to mind at the same early age. He has enjoyed for several years a pension of 2001. per annum. On the death of Wordsworth, he was appointed Poet Laureate. He has also, since the last edition of this work, married, and has added largely to his fame by his poems, The Princess, and In Memoriam. We cannot say the same of his late production, Maud. That, thrown forth in the moment of war fever, is a production which we could willingly see blotted out of the list of his works, and forgotten. We look in vain in it either for Tennyson's usually exquisite melody of rhythm, or the soundness of his philosophy. It advances the monstrous dogma, that peace is the

fount of all the crimes of society. If that be true, Christianity cannot be so; for its Author is styled the Prince of Peace, and the prophesied consummation of His kingdom is, "Peace on earth, and goodwill to man." But if Tennyson's doctrine be true, the more we advance in peace, the more we shall advance in social crime. If, as he asserts, war be absolutely necessary to civilization, then are all the arts of peace, and the efforts of education, vain. To maintain civilization, men must continue to murder, not incidentally, but in the wholesale line. When the nations are prepared to "beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks," we must take care of ourselves; for we shall be overrun with burglars, cut-throats, and domestic poisoners. That Millennium to which Christianity points us, instead of a time to be desired, is one of all others to be dreaded; for peace being perfect and universal, on the Tennysonian theory, crime must be paramount and intolerable. The philosophy of Locksley Hall was something better than this. There the poet looked forward

"Till the war-drum throbbed no longer, and the battle-flags were furled,
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law."

The staggering dissonance of the versification of Maud is not less remarkable than the grating dissonance of the sentiment. But we look onward to the great epic of Arthur, and trust in that to see the poet reappear in robust health and full glory, in a harmony of numbers, and of spirit equal to the national utility of the theme. We can allow Tennyson a speck or two in his disc, as we do

the sun.

[ocr errors]


HERE, for the present, 1 suspend my labours. The poetical commonwealth of England is so rich, that it is impossible to bring a tenth part of its affluence within the scope of any ordinary work. This work is not intended by any means for a biography, far less a biographical dictionary, to which, by attempting to include all, it would at once have been reduced. Detail would have been out of the question, and the main interest therefore destroyed. It is a work on the residences of eminent poets, including so much biographical and critical remark as seemed necessary to the full elucidation of the subject, or of the character of particular poets. Amongst both past and present poets there are some whose residences are little known; others whose residences, when known, have little of picturesque about them, or which are unattended by circumstances out of the ordinary routine. To detail merely that such a man lived in such a street, and such a house, would have answered no purpose, and could only weary. I resolved, therefore, to dismiss the dramatic authors at once, as a large body requiring separate treatment, and to add such poets in general as my researches in the main might show had homes and haunts, and circumstances associated with them, of such a nature as should make them matters of public interest.

Amongst the past there are numbers of poets whose residences undoubtedly will furnish further topics as Herrick, Waller, Parnell, Drummond of Hawthornden, Collins, Dyer, Young, Akenside, Allan Ramsay, Beattie, Pollok, and others. Amongst our illustrious cotemporaries, how many yet come crowding upon the mind, enow to


705 create of themselves the fame of a generation. The moment we name them it will be seen that the introduction into this volume has been, in my mind, no evidence of my opinion of their relative merits. The question only has been, have these poets anything connected with their residences which will stand forth in its interest beyond the ordinary grade? The subjects already included have occupied me several years, and have led me to almost every extremity of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately for the inquirer, poets do not happen to have been born, or to have lived, just where it was most convenient to reach them. They have not by any means lived all in one place, nor in straight lines and rows, so that we might take them in rapid and easy succession. On the contrary, they have compelled me to traverse the kingdom from London to the North of Scotland, from the Giant's Causeway to the West of Ireland; there is scarcely an English county into which I have not had to follow them, and often into places most obscure and difficult of access. So far, however, the labour is accomplished: and when I turn to the names of those of our day, I see that the harvest is yet far from reaped. Independent of the dramatic poets, as Milman, Knowles, Bulwer, Talfourd, Bell, Miss Mitford, Marston, Herraud, Taylor (the author of Philip van Artevelde), and others, we have yet to include in our catalogue many a brilliant name in the general walks of poetry-the venerable Bowles, Hood, Croly, Monckton Milnes, Bowring, Mackay, Philip Bailey, author of Festus, one of the most striking and original spirits of the age; Horne, the author of the fine poem of Orion, and of ballads full of vigour, originality, and a sound and healthy sentiment; Mrs. Norton; Browning, dark but sterling and strong, with his gifted wife, late Elizabeth Barrett, whose poems reflect in the clear depths of a profound and brooding intellect the onward spirit of the age. Lockhart, with his spirited Spanish Ballads; Macaulay, with his stirring Lays of Rome; Alaric Watts, with his Lyrics full of fine fancy, feeling, and domestic affection; these, and Delta of Blackwood's Magazine, Tennant, Motherwell, Patmore, Dobell, Massey, Arnold, and many others, come rushing up in our recollection. There are some to whom the world has not yet done justice, whom it will one day be a high gratification to introduce-such as William Scott, the author of that beautiful and very intellectual poem, The Year of the World; and Moile, the author of State Trials, a work of singular beauty, and which I rejoice to see advanced to a second edition. And are there not, too, others, some of those who have risen, like Burns, from the ranks of the labouring people, whose homes and haunts might be most interesting to trace? There is Thomas Cooper, the author of the Purgatory of Suicides, who could unfold undoubtedly some singular scenes in his track of life; there are Bloomfield, and Nicoll, and Clare, now the inmate of an asylum, and others who could furnish us with a scene or a passing glimpse, perhaps, of more thrilling interest-like some of those in the histories of John Prince and William Thom-than any that occur in more elevated walks. Many of our younger and more brilliant cotem

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »