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INTRODUCTION

THIS attractive poem is one of the most truly representative of Tennyson's works. Written in what may be called the June of his life, that early summer which still retains a share of the freshness of spring, it preserves for us much of the playful fancy which characterises youth, side by side with bursts of the deepest and truest feeling, and with the thoughtful wisdom of maturity. Nowhere shall we find Tennyson's perception of beauty keener, nor his mastery over its expression surer, than in this poem. Nowhere shall we find a wider range of allusion, a more fascinating embroidery of divers colours, the sheeny interweaving of those threads which his mind had brought together from east and west, from north and south, than in this poem with its ever-shifting tints, now recalling Greek culture and art and philosophy, now Roman majesty; now the wild legends of Scandinavia or the rose gardens of Persia, and then suggesting all those tenderer feelings which find their shelter in an English home, or some exquisite touch of natural beauty

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in tree or cataract or flower or cloud. The Princess is a scholar's poem, an artist's poem; it is also a thinker's poem, but above all, it is a lover's poem. It would be easy to show this by quotations from the text before us, but perhaps it will be more satisfactory to give a very slight sketch of the "genesis," as we may call it, of the work.

The first edition of the "Princess" was published in 1847, when the author was thirty-eight years of age. It seems that though the age of thirty-seven has been fatal to some of the more sensitive and, if one may say so, precocious among men of genius, yet those of the robuster sort have hardly then attained the maturity of their powers. Tennyson, who lived till eighty-three, and whose poetical gift lasted through the whole of his long life, had barely touched his zenith at the above date. Arthur Hallam had died in 1833, and it seemed for a time as if the sunshine of Tennyson's life had been eclipsed. In this poem we think we see the clouds rolling away, and something of the old buoyancy coming back. Perhaps the fact

that the composition of this poem and of "In Memoriam" were going on side by side will not surprise us when we think how rapidly the mind passes from mood to mood, and how natural and almost inevitable the reaction would be from the high musings and earnest ponderings of the one

poem, to the playful picturesqueness and fantastic charm of the other. The germ of the "Princess," Hallam, Lord Tennyson tells us, may be traced back to 1839. If we reflect that the accession of Queen Victoria was in 1837, it will be easy for us to conceive how the figure of this maiden queen, so soon to become a wife and mother, must have dominated the public imagination at that time.

Since 1714, when Queen Anne, pursued even to her very death-bed by party strife, closed her harassed and difficult reign, no female sovereign had sat on the throne of England. The position of Queen Victoria was in many ways unprecedented. Looking back on that "sixty years since," we may say that the chances were many to one against her married life being what it proved to be, and hardly less against the peacefulness and prosperity of her reign. Chartism was in the air; the fall of Louis Philippe was impending; the struggle between labour and capital, the privileged and the unprivileged classes, the apostles of free trade and their opponents, the reforming and the conservative spirit, and, we may add, the unrest caused by the Tractarian movement, were agitating all intelligent minds. Science was daily manifesting more of her marvellous resources; the question of the education and housing of the labouring classes was only one aspect of the wide-spread

desire to bring home the best gifts of civilisation to all, without distinction of rank, nationality, or sex, which characterised the early and middle decades of the present century. Tennyson's friends report him to have said that the two great social questions impending in England were "the housing and education of the poor man before making him our master, and the higher education of women"; and that the sooner woman finds out, before the great educational movement begins, that woman is not undevelopt man, but diverse," the better it will be for the progress of the world. Life, vol. i., p. 249.

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It was inevitable that the higher education of women should be brought under consideration at a period when Mary Somerville, Harriet Martineau, Frances Anne Kemble, Charlotte Brontë, Mrs Browning, and Mrs Gaskell were showing to the world how various were woman's gifts and how nobly she could use them. Among the circle of Tennyson's dearest friends was F. D. Maurice. See the beautiful lines beginning:

"Come, when no graver cares employ,
Godfather, come and see your boy."

And at the very time when the "Princess" was in course of being written, Maurice was engaged in preparing the way for the planting of Queen's

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