The Pre-Eminent Victorian: A Study of Tennyson

By Joanna Richardson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
'IN THE ROOM OF WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, ESQ....'

' TENNYSON,' reported Walter White that month, 'is difficult to please in the matter of a house. He must have all the upper part to himself, for a study and smoking-room etc. and to avoid noise above his head and indoor privacy as he is accustomed while composing to walk up and down loudly reciting his flowing thoughts.'

His flowing thoughts were soon to receive official recognition. On April 23rd Wordsworth had died, and the search had begun for a poet whose character and powers entitled him to be the first poet of England. The Poet Laureateship had first been offered to Samuel Rogers; but the author of Italy felt that at the age of eighty-seven he must decline the honour. 'On this ground alone, and after a considerable struggle, he communicated his refusal to His Royal Highness Prince Albert.' Rogers had been the court candidate, but there were also popular favourites for the vacancy. One was Leigh Hunt, who had been imprisoned, thirty-five years earlier, for libelling the Regent, and was now living out a stringent and more orthodox old age in the Old Court Suburb of Kensington. Another was Mrs Browning, who was backed by The Athenaeum on the grounds that a female sovereign demanded the effusions of a female laureate. But the female sovereign herself, familiar 'with novelists such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and, it may be added, Mrs Oliphant', was also familiar with the work of Mr Tennyson. The fame of In Memoriam had spread throughout the summer and autumn, and Prince Albert had greatly admired the poem. On October 2nd Lord John Russell delicately inquired of Samuel Rogers what he knew of Tennyson's character and position. On October 21st Lord John informed Prince Albert: 'Sir: Mr Tennyson is a fit person to be Poet Laureate.'

On November 5th a letter was sent to Tennyson from Windsor,

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