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that woman clothed with the sun Prior (insignificant) ambasin the Revelations stretching out sador, the general mass of literary maternal arms, the sceptre of workers had no distinction (except mercy, the orb of justice over half the pillory now and then) any a world—or of that dim-eyed old more than they have now. Grub magician who is the favourite of Street was a place of evil fame all folk-lore, whose spells go so even when Johnson was autocrat, far to wreck the nations. And and had the privilege of being all this for want of the literary rude to the finest people in Lonperson whose office is but lightly don. And though literature has thought of by the generations, now become highly respectable, it though it is he only who has made has not come any nearer to those them known and comprehensible honours and rewards which show to each other from the beginning the public gratitude for public serof time.
vices. We do not for our part see At the end of this long vista of why there might not be a bit of fifty years, it will not be inappro- ribbon, a cross of honour, for the priate to place before the reader literary man if he would like it a brief survey of those writers who (and no doubt he would like it), in will hereafter be known in univer- the distributions of distinctions sal history as of the age of Victoria. which will abound during this It is pleasant, and gives occasion year. As it is, all that Great to a graceful nomenclature, that Britain ever awards to her inso many of the greatest periods in structors in literature is a pension our literary history should coincide on the Civil List, which some people with the reigns of female sover- consider as rather a concession to eigns. It is not, we fear, because poverty than a title of honour.. these royal ladies have specially Lord Tennyson's peerage, to be patronised the arts. The age of sure, is a great exception : but Anne was the one in which men peerages are prodigious prizes and of letters were most in the way a little alarming Should her of promotion; but that was not Majesty be disposed to admit her from the patronage of the Queen, faithful servants of the year into or perhaps from any other reason the ranks of the Rewarded, we but the natural fitness of things— should with humility suggest a the statesmen of the period speci- much milder decoration.
As we ally requiring aid, and the literary do not, however, delude ourselves men of the period being, as it hap- with the hope that our advice will pened, capable of giving it in a be asked in the matter, we may marked and remarkable way. In take comfort on the other hand our time no ode of Lord Tennyson in the fact that the absence of or any other poet would be at all such acknowledgments has never likely to affect the country as Ad- at any period done our robust dison's “ Campaign " did; though literature any harm. Addison, in comparison with Lord And we may add with all modTennyson, is not to be named as a esty that we do not think we need poet, and his work was turgid and fear for the Victorian age in literartificial, held aloft only by the ature in comparison with most of power of two or three fine lines. its predecessors. Within her MaEven in that time, however, except jesty's reign is contained the bethat Addison was made an (indif- ginning and the end of much great ferent) Secretary or State, and literary work. We do not propose
to enter here into any discussion of still on all the hills-while Wordsthe crowd of living authors whose worth still stood like a mountainplace has not yet been ascertained peak unimpaired by years, though by that calmer judgment which silent like that same mountain, only comes when work is ended. and apt to quench lesser lights in Yet it would be impossible to re- his great shadow—was a terrible view the literature of Queen Vic- ordeal for a young poet; besides toria's reign without referring to that, in the natural sequences of the two poets, still happily spared to time, a pause has generally folus, who are its glory and its pride. lowed at the close of a great We will avow, to begin with, a bold poetical epoch, giving time for the opinion. With every hope and general public, not able for too prayer that Lord Tennyson and much stimulation in this way, to Mr Browning may live and enjoy draw breath. Notwithstanding all life till they have reached the that was thus against him, there utmost possible bounds of living, are many of the poems in the first we should support by all means collection of verses published by in our power a Bill in Parliament young Tennyson more than ifty which should ordain to those two years ago which remain anong poets silence—for the remainder of those which are now universally their honoured days. Is it with acknowledged as his finest utterthis intention, we wonder, that so ances. Nothing in the · Idylls of many poets, according to the wise the King' is more beautiful than regulations of Providence, have died the poem which now occupies its young? that no bondage of repeti- fit place among them, and in tion, no horrible compulsion of the which the first suggestion of that expected, should wring from their noble series is contained, the lips songs no longer voluntary, “Morte d'Arthur.” Its new and utterances not demanded by na- strange music, conveying an accent ture, the result of a conventional of its own-a cadence unaccustomnecessity or of the mistaken de- ed, fine, pensive, penetrating sire to keep a place which requires startled at first the general ear, and from them no such effort ? We are added to the force of that natural at liberty, at all events, to consider resistance with which we all make Tennyson and Browning as men a stand against every new prewho have accomplished their day's tender to the rank of poet. But work, and to whom it is both per- that opposition factitious mitted and desirable that they and short-lived : and Tennyson's should repose upon their laurels. first publication forms an admirWhen the Queen came to the able and unmistakable foundation throne fifty years ago, Alfred for his fame. He has perhaps Tennyson was the youngest of the never done anything finer in singers who had from the begin- the profounder intellectual rening of the century abounded in gions of poetry than the “Two the land. To come after one of Voices," nothiug more vivid and the greatest waves of poetical in- splendid in its power of vision spiration which England has ever than the “ Dream of Fair Women." known, while the music of Shel- His after-work has developed durley's exquisite verse still lingered ing the progress of these years into in the nation's ear, and Byron all as noble and as pure a collection aglow with fire and eloquence had of poetry, we make bold to say, left the Aush of an early sunset as belongs to any English name.
Comparisons with Shakespeare are have mused, without the passion absurd. There is but one of that, which carried that paladin astray, name, and there is nothing that is with a sobered and tragic faithShakespearian in Tennyson. Com- fulness which Chaucer's audience parisons with Milton, also, are to would have failed to appreciate, a great extent out of the ques- but which has vouched the very tion. Other poets may emulate heart of the Victorian age. His his music, but no one has reached grave superiority to all blandishthat fine
fine diapason of sound, ments and delusions, his love which those organ-notes which at their has been subdued into a great, alllightest have something of the pardoning, all-enduring fidelity, sacred in them. Our Laureate the mournful force of that faith does not touch so large or so unfaithful which has kept him solemn a scale. He gathers up falsely true, are neither medieval rather from an older_original the nor legendary ; they are of the tale that is dear to English ears. nineteenth century, belonging to a The “ very parfitt gentil knyghte," being whose reason has got the the young squire who was “as upper hand of passion, whose imafresche as are the flouris in Maye,” gination is under subjection to his come back to us with a difference love, not in the way of picturing out of that pilgrimage which our its charms and raptures, but of poet would never have drawn so representing the impossibility of broadly or with such variety and an end to such a bond, the supreme human tolerance, yet in which he necessity of constancy. It is the might have ridden with Chaucer Lancelot of middle age, the knight among the gentle people at the who has outgrown illusion—a charfront, marking with luminous eyes acter in which the highest spiritual their antique courteous fashions, nobleness and devotion develops and gliding unawares, though with out of hasty passion and guilt. No so many modern thoughts, into the such knight ever sat at the Round place of him
Table, we may be sure; and it
is possible, if a profane impulse “ Who left half told
seized the critic, to imagine Queen The story of Cambuscan bold.”
a passionate Celtic The modern thoughts comes strange- princess, to have fiercely resented ly in, yet add a not discordant the philosophy of the thoughtful note. Perhaps they go a trifle lover. But with his modern heart too far when they come to the in his mail-clad bosom, what image flippant maiden of one of the later more noble has this century proidyls, with her much-quoted im- duced than that of Lancelot? It pertinent little nose, “tiptilted may be a little dangerous in morals like the petal of a flower," the to suggest that he never could minois chiffonné of a French sou- have been so perfect a knight had brette, rather than the piquant he not been a great sinner to begin irregularity of feature which be- with ; but that is quite irrelevant longs to an English girl. It is to the question. perhaps, however, this touch of Lord Tennyson has made one modern delicacy of thought in other supreme addition to poetry, Lancelot which has made him which even in this brief summary so completely the ideal knight of must be noted. “In Memoriam our modern imagination. He came to the world with all the muses, as his original would not tenderest prejudices of the gen
eration in its favours ; but its poem of all others in English, or effect at first was not perhaps so far as we are aware in any lanwhat might be thought. There guage, which gives a voice and were (and are) in fact harsh utterance to the varying moods, the
in it, break-jaw passages passion and the calm of grief, the about fixing the limits of know- longing memories that mingle themledge, about nature, red in tooth selves with a thousand new currents and claw, and other matters as of thought, yet return and return, little poetical. And the critics like the circles of the lark, to the objected that sorrow does not speak lowly bed in which all centre. To in so long a strain nor with such have done this, in poetry which is breaks of philosophy and argument almost always beautiful and often and such pauses for discussion, most touching in its pathos and in all of which objections there profound humanity, is glory enough was a certain truth. But, notwith- for a man, and the world was so standing, “In Memoriam " has much the poorer when her Majesty grown into the popular heart. We began to reign, that there was as can find nothing in the language yet no such litany and ritual of to place beside it.“ Lycidas” and grief. Other men have raised mon"Adonais” are elegies, lamentations uments, and precious ones, to those over the dead made glorious by his they have lost; Tennyson alone has ending, whose going away has filled embodied the endless vicissitudes the earth with sorrow, whose dis- of the sorrowing heart, the worldappearance is as the failing of the wide atmosphere through which our sun from the day or the heavenly individual loss breathes a chill and stars from the night. But Ten- penetrating sense of vacancy which nyson's inspiration is a different all the universe cannot fill up.
It is the reverie of a bereaved There are some critics who affect and stricken soul, which he puts to despise the sane and wholesome into a music most tender, most limits within which this great poet melancholy, the very voice of that has seen it meet to confine himself, grief which cannot exhaust itself who call his high reticence and in any passion or storm of mourn- moral purity feminine, and accuse ing, but which is the chief occupa- him of bringing down the issues of tion, the prevailing sentiment of life to the atmosphere of the draw. the mind. The soft cadences of the ing-rooms. But Tennyson's poetry verse wander from earth to heaven, will remain, we do not doubt, the from heaven to earth, like the wild highest expression of the mind of and wandering thoughts which his age-an age which unfortunhave one centre to which they al- ately, is no longer quite this age, ways return. Sick fancies come and the happier simpler period of the go, and now the mind will follow reign, when for a time the standard one suggestion, now another, inter- of society seemed altogether higher rogating the spheres, questioning and purer, when the scandals of with itself, soaring like a bird al. the past seemed to have died away most out of sight of its trouble, in a clearer moral atmosphere, dropping down again low to the wherein noxious things could not grasses of the grave, always return- live. It is no reproach either to ing to the one predominant mem- the Laureate or the Queen if that ory, the loss which never can be fine moment did not last. And forgotten, the pang that will not poetry, like society, when less be stilled. In this way it is the lofty, more sensual and earthly, is
apt to claim for itself the credit of ing, elucidating, and repeating a stronger manhood-a claim as everything he has to say. The unfounded as it is derogatory both defect is invisible in the wonderto human nature and to art. Mr fully pathetic picture of Andrea Swinburne has carried into more del Sarto, in the fine, keen, clear luscious sweetness the melody of physiognomy of the Greek Cleon, words; but that broader and larger and in some of the other wondernature which stretches far beyond ful studies of human thought and the monotone of passion has little meaning which are in this fine place in the sweetness, long drawn collection. The poet throws himout, of his new fashion.
self back into the being of his It is more difficult to character- temporary hero with an insight ise Mr. Browning's poetry than and comprehension, a visible force that of his illustrious contempor- and vividness, which give singular ary. He has had the misfortune, reality to the picture—a mode of a little from his excellences, but treatment new to poetry, and as still more from his peculiarities effective as it is original. It is which are not excellent, to attract always the most exacting and diffito himself the mystical worship cult of literary studies to set forth of a sect which goes far at present a man in his own language, in a to make the poet ridiculous. But portion of his own existence, not he is not to blame if the difficul- acting even but thinking, disclosties of his enunciation have pro- ing the secrets of his own being, duced a bizarre worship which is and, above all, to do this within to the glorification of the wor- a limited space, which gives no lishippers rather than that of their cence for external description, nor idol. We can only regret that any accumulation of accessories. these uncouth rites have beguiled They highest gifts of the historian him into continuing a series of are sometimes occupied in the acmetaphysical studies which dis- complishment from without of courage the true lover of poetry, such portraits, and there can be and intensify the veil which hangs little doubt that the habit and between admirable
a poet power of doing this has added a and the appreciation of the rea- wonderful attraction and grace to sonable world. It is unnecessary history. But such characterisato speak of “Sordello” or even of tions are little known in poetry. “ Paracelsus," or these finely poeti- They have hitherto been confined cal but impracticable dramas which to the drama, where indeed it is cannot even by the enthusiasm of only by his own interpretation the illuminati be buoyed into life. that we understand the hero; but Perhaps Mr Browning is at his where he has at least the events of greatest in the • Men and Women,' a highly wrought episode, an exwhich stand in the middle of his citing series of incidents, to make poetical career, when his faculties his revelation by. Mr Browning were at their finest, and his powers has put aside all such aids in those least hampered by the inadequacy wonderful little pieces of work. of words. There is nothing finer The melancholy painter in his in the language than some of these evening talk, half musing, half poems, especially those in which speech, with the sense of his failhe has confined the redundancy ure aching at his heart, and the into which his laboured utterance still
miserable consciousleads him, the necessity of explain- ness of what he might have