15
Robert Bridges

The death of Mr. Alfred Austin which occurred on Monday cannot be said by any stretch of imagination to leave a gap in literature; but it does leave a gap in officialdom. It is a very curious fact that while the Laureateship has reached the Pye level, poetry has flourished outside, and is now flourishing as it has not done for years.

This, however, makes the choice of a successor more difficult. It would be a very graceful act if the Laureateship were conferred on Mr. Thomas Hardy, for his 'Dynasts' places him among the immortals. Failing him, why not Mrs. Meynell, even although a woman Laureate would be forming a precedent? Some of the other poets have made poetry and politics too interchangeable.

SO wrote The Graphic (in rather doubtful taste) a few days after Austin's death. Accompanying the notice were a picture of Austin in his study and pictures of 'possible successors' -- Hardy, Laurence Binyon, Stephen Phillips, John Masefield, Kipling, Alice Meynell, Maurice Hewlett and William Watson.

Now -- apart from others not mentioned -- there was first class Laureate material here. Binyon (as events proved) could write solemn, moving and dignified verse, capable of impressing the whole nation; and 'For the Fallen'is not alone among his poems. Hewlett commanded a similar fitting gravity of tone when the occasion required it; Sir William Watson was a better poet than his later reputation suggests. Alice Meynell was, perhaps, too personal and restricted in her range, and Stephen Phillips was a spent force; to Kipling's vigorous style the Laureateship would have been a hindrance -- he was better as an influential private voice. Hardy might have said some grand things -- but, Laureate or not, he said them anyway and we have no cause for complaint at the quantity of his poems: perhaps, indeed, he too would have found the office restricting. John Masefield's turn was to come.

Besides the names noted in The Graphic there were others equally respectable, for the first decade of the new century had seen the making of several solid reputations -- which the passing of forty more years has

-178-

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