13
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

____________________
1
Unless, indeed, the extensive revisions to which in later years he subjected his poems be considered 'active authorship.' As Byron remarked (though I can't say I wholly agree with him) 'Second thoughts in everything are best, but in rhyme third and fourth don't come amiss.' Certainly Wordsworth was never idle in the sense of being indolent and the fact that some readers prefer the 1805 to the 1850 text of The Prelude is neither here nor there.

-153-

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The Poets Laureate
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 11
  • I - The Poets Laureate 13
  • 1 - Before the Laureateship: Jonson and Davenant 15
  • 2 - The First Laureate: John Dryden 21
  • 3 - Thomas Shadwell 32
  • 4 - Nahum Tate 44
  • 5 - Nicholas Rowe 55
  • 6 - Laurence Eusden 62
  • 7 - Colley Cibber 68
  • 8 - William Whitehead 79
  • 9 - Thomas Warton 92
  • 10 - Henry James Pye 109
  • 11- Robert Southey 124
  • 12 - William Wordsworth 145
  • 13 - Alfred, Lord Tennyson 153
  • 14 - Alfred Austin 166
  • 15 - Robert Bridges 178
  • 16 - John Masefield 185
  • II - Selections from the Works Of the Poets Laureate 193
  • Ben Jonson 195
  • Sir William Davenant 198
  • John Dryden 200
  • Thomas Shadwell 204
  • Nahum Tate 208
  • Nicholas Rowe 213
  • Laurence Eusden 220
  • Colley Cibber 225
  • William Whitehead 230
  • Thomas Warton 235
  • Henry James Pye 243
  • Robert Southey 248
  • William Wordsworth 254
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson 260
  • Alfred Austin 267
  • Robert Bridges 272
  • John Masefield 277
  • Select Bibliography 281
  • Index 285
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