The Pre-Eminent Victorian: A Study of Tennyson

By Joanna Richardson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
THE MAGNIFICENT SHEPHERD

WHILE the siege of Paris was at its height, in November 1870, Arthur Sullivan arrived at Aldworth, and urged Tennyson to publish The Window. Tennyson was unwilling to publish such trivial songs at such a crisis in European affairs, but he had given Sullivan his word, and in December they appeared with his protest: 'I am sorry that my four-year-old puppet should have to dance at all in the dark shadow of these days; but the music is now completed, and I am bound by my promise.'

A few days after Sullivan's visit, Tennyson repeated to Emily some of The Last Tournament, which he had just written; but despite his creative work, he remained depressed. He refused to join the Royal Society expedition to Cadiz, because he was expected to write a poem on the eclipse, and because it seemed, as Emily said, 'that no one will go if this insolent despatch of Gortschakoff brings war, as it should do if not withdrawn. A. talked, as he had done of late, chiefly of the state of England and Europe. He cared so much for this that most other things just then seemed matters of indifference to him. He ... said, "How strange England cannot see her true policy lies in a close union with our colonies!" He added: "We ought to have all boys at school drilled, so that we may be more ready for defensive war than now".'

The beginning of 1871 saw Tennyson at Farringford, delighted by 'Mr Jowett's four volumes of Plato'. He had been even more delighted by Jowett's recent election to the mastership of Balliol. Now, after nearly twenty years of university warfare, of stubborn persecution, Jowett had come into his own: now he would 'endeavour to see, very seriously, what can be made of a College'. In the twenty-three years that remained to him, he would rebuild much of Balliol, establish a hall for non-collegiate students, encourage Oxford music and drama, and become Vice-

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