The Pre-Eminent Victorian: A Study of Tennyson

By Joanna Richardson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
EXITS AND ENTRANCES

THREE days after the visit to Osborne, Mrs Henry Taylor, highly gratified, reported to her husband from Freshwater:

Alfred came down to see me yesterday and was very cordial in inviting me up to his garret. He really does look a very grand man; and I think I should still be disposed to follow after him as before. He has all the charm of a little child as well as that of a great man, and that deep voice of his is very music to me ...

I am glad that you took pleasure in Alfred and his reading [answered the author of Philip van Artevelde]. I hope you sat up with him over his pipe, for no one knows how agreeable he can be without that experience of him.

Soon afterwards came Henry Taylor's turn to enjoy the Laureate's company; and on June 15th it was he who wrote home:

We dined at the Tennysons' yesterday, and in the evening he read us his new poem -- a story (said to be true) which Woolner had read in the diary of a lady who was his fellow- passenger in a voyage to Australia. It is a very powerful poem, of the genus Michael. The fault of the subject, if not of the treatment, was illustrated by its effect upon one of the audience, Mrs Jackson. After an hour and a half, when the end was near, she went into hysterics ... It is, however, one more variety of the manifestation of Tennyson's genius ...

'A very pleasant evening,' Emily confirmed, 'but that Mrs Jackson was overpowered by Enoch Arden.'

The poem had also been read to Mrs Cameron, who came 'across the Park looking gorgeous in her violet dress and red cloak walking over the newly mown grass'. It was read after dinner on May 1st to Gladstone: 'a very agreeable intellectual and most

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