The Pre-Eminent Victorian: A Study of Tennyson

By Joanna Richardson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
THE MELANCHOLY APOLLO

FITZGERALD was highly critical of the two books. 'Why,' he asked a friend, 'reprint the Merman, the Mermaid, and those everlasting Eleanores, Isabels, -- which always were, and are, and must be, a nuisance ... Every woman thinks herself the original of one of that stupid Gallery of Beauties.' Every woman did. 'Amuse yourself -- get poetry and read it,' Charles Kingsley advised his fiancée. 'I have a book called Tennyson's Poems, the most beautiful poetry of the last fifteen years ... Shall I send it to you?' Actor, like cleric, read with admiration. Macready delighted in the poems on the way to a sentimental rendezvous; and in July, on holiday at Eastbourne, he read some Tennyson ballads to his children. Eastward along the coast, at Broadstairs, Dickens was telling Forster:

I have been reading Tennyson all this morning on the seashore. Among other trifling effects, the waters have dried up as they did of old, and shown me all the mermen and mermaids, at the bottom of the ocean; together with millions of queer creatures, half-fish and half-fungus, looking down into all manner of coral caves and seaweed conservatories ...

As for Miss Barrett, stretched upon her metropolitan sofa, the volumes 'rapt her in Elysium'; and 'of the new poems we may say,' so she informed Miss Mitford, 'there is more power, ... [and] a higher degree of philosophic thought than the critical world wotteth of. That is my doxy about the poems -- the poet being divine as I always felt him to be.' The Barrett enthusiasm was contagious. 'Do you know Alfred Tennyson's poems?' Miss Mitford inquired of her friend Miss Harrison. 'Some of the things, especially Mariana in the Moated Grange, have great merit, so that I have been pleased at finding one of the best of the new poems taken avowedly "from a pastoral of Miss Mitford's" -- Dora

-40-

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