Alfred, Lord Tennyson
SEVERAL poets have refused the Laureateship at various times. Gray was firm in his intention from the first, Scott hesitated and then declined, Wordsworth declined at once and was afterwards persuaded to have second thoughts. In 1850 the comedy was played with another actor in the leading role: this was the ancient Samuel Rogers.
Wordsworth when appointed at seventy-three had done little in active authorship1 for a quarter of a century -- nothing bulky since the publication of The Waggoner in 1819. Samuel Rogers was in a similar position, 'only more so.' Rogers, at the age of eighty-seven, had long (and mainly malicious) memories going back to the time of Dr. Johnson. It was however nearly thirty years since he had published a new book, and nearly twenty since the definitive collection of his poetical works. He was moreover a poet having nothing in common with the spirit of 1850; his roots were nourished in the soil of a hundred years earlier. But it was with flattering promptness that the offer was made to him on May 8th, a couple of weeks after Wordsworth's death -- and in Prince Albert's own hand:
My dear Mr. Rogers, The death of the lamented Mr. Wordsworth has vacated the office of Poet Laureate. Although the spirit of the times has put an end to the practice (at all times objectionable) of exacting laudatory Odes from the holder of that office, the Queen attaches importance to its maintenance from its historical antiquity and the means it affords to the Sovereign of a more personal connection with the Poets of the country through one of their chiefs. I am authorised, accordingly, to offer to you this honorary post, and can tell you that it will give Her Majesty great pleasure if it were accepted