The Pre-Eminent Victorian: A Study of Tennyson

By Joanna Richardson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
LIGHTING UP THE BLACKNESS

IN July 1864, when Enoch Arden was published, Tennyson paid a visit to London. 'He tells me,' wrote Emily, on August 6th,

how eloquent Gladstone was on Monday. The Speaker was so good as to make an exception in A.'s favour and let him in tho' all seats were supposed to be full and the Speaker winked hard at his using an Opera Glass: A Privilege Mr Merivale says 'not allowed to ordinary mortals but an honour we pay the Immortal Bard'. The opposition too had their joke, seeing him sit on their side, they said, 'We have the Poet Laureate on our side at all events.' A. says that Gladstone's voice trembled when he began speaking and then when he answered Disraeli the whole tide of oratory flowed forth in invective.

That summer the 'Immortal Bard' took his family to Brittany. 'To Rouen by boat,' noted Emily, with a sense of occasion. 'This very same voyage made by A. with Arthur Hallam.' The shade of King Arthur, too, hung over them: they went to Keldthuen, where the King was said to have held his court, and the hostess of the Hôtel de l'Europe, at Lannion, discovering Tennyson's identity, proclaimed to the neighbourhood that she sheltered the poet of 'notre grand roi Arthur'.

Certain English reviewers had also accorded him the title 'Poet of the People'; and on his return to Farringford he decided to issue some of his popular poems in cheap parts, for the working classes. The eight parts were also published as a five-shilling volume, and the Queen, to whom he sent a copy, expressed her satisfaction that this 'admirable selection from his poems will thus be brought within the reach of the poorest among the subjects of Her Majesty'.

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