The Pre-Eminent Victorian: A Study of Tennyson

By Joanna Richardson | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
ENOCH ARDEN

A WHITE evening [noted Mrs Bradley on December 30th]. After dinner G. and I went alone to Farringford. A. T. read us his tragedy Sir Aylmer...He said as he read, from time to time, how incalculably difficult the story was to tell... he often stopped to point out how hard he had found such and such a piece -- how much work and thought it had cost him ... He asked me several times if I understood things or recognized allusions. 1. The red in the chesnut blossom. 2. The Maximum and Minimum of a star. 3. The tented hopfields in winter -- 'I pride myself on that observation,' he said, 'have you ever seen the hop poles piled up like tents in the bare fields in winter?' There were some exquisite descriptions of cottages covered with creepers, he pointed out one about the Traveller's joy -- the description of Edith with the babies is charming. The 5 pink beads on the little feet. Emily laughed and said 'I knew you would be charmed with that.' The parting of the lovers in the dark rainy night under the 'roaring pines' we asked for again ... His glorious noble profile as he sat in the high back chair reading was most striking. There are lines furrowed deeper and deeper from brow to chin. There is a look in his face like a brightly shining lamp -- like an inward fire consuming his life.

* * *

Tennyson's reading, like that of Dickens, was a dramatic event. He read the fiery passages in Maud'with a voice and vehemence which he alone could compass', while the softer passages, said Rossetti, 'made the tears run down his cheeks like rain'. The reading which moved him to fury and tears reverberated long after his organ voice had died away. 'One part,' wrote Lear, when he had heard Maud, 'is enough to make you

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