Poetry in The Age of Tennyson

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      The Age of Tennyson. What, following our method of division, we here call the Age of Tennyson corresponds very closely as a period of literature with the Victorian Age in general history. Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, and it was during the decade between 1830 and 1840 that many of the writers who were to add special distinction to her reign began their work. But, though her own life extended till 1901, we may conveniently take the year of her jubilee—1887 - as marking the close of this last epoch in our survey. By that time a fresh race in literature had arisen, while those of the former generation who still survived had nothing of importance to add to their production, and indeed, like Tennyson’s Bedivere, found themselves “among new men, strange faces, other minds”.

      Wonderfully rich and varied in personal quality—and its astonishing variety is one of its outstanding characteristics—the literature of the Age of Tennyson at the same time everywhere embodies the spirit of Victorian England, and reflects the influences which combined to make the half-century in question an era of surprising change along many lines. It is such a literature as, in the mass, could not conceivably have been produced at any other time in the world’s history. The enormous complexity of the period, and the bewildering diversity of the elements which entered into its civilization, render exhaustive analysis within brief limits impossible. But it is fortunately not difficult to indicate the two great dominant movements, or ‘main currents’, as Brandes would call them, in the general life of the time. They are, in the political and social spheres, the progress of democracy; in the intellectual sphere, the progress of science.

      Reference has been made to the conservative reaction which followed the excitement of the French Revolution. By 1837 that reaction had practically spent its force as well in England as on the Continent. The Reform Bill of 1832 had already destroyed the political supremacy of the landed aristocracy, but, as it left the greater part of the laboring classes still unenfranchised, it did not satisfy those who had pressed for and been led to expect a far more radical measure. Agitation for electoral reform accordingly continued, and the great popular movement called Chartism kept England for some ten years in a state of political unrest, which was still further stimulated by the industrial depression and wide-spread misery of the ‘hungry forties’. It is with perfect justice, therefore, that the first decade of the new queen’s reign has been described as “an anxious and critical time in modern English history”. But the very dangers and difficulties by which the country was beset stirred the social consciousness and gave immense impetus to philanthropic energy and the spirit of humanitarianism. The repeal of the Corn Laws ushered in an era of much improved industrial conditions, and after 1848 the Chartist movement died out. Then, at long intervals, came the Reform Bills of 1867 and 1884-85, which we may regard as stages in a peaceful revolution which transformed the essentially oligarchic England of William IV’s time into the ‘crown’d republic’ whose praises Tennyson sang. Important as these political changes were, however, they were by no means the most important aspects of the democratic expansion of the Victorian Age. More significant and more vital were the social and intellectual changes by which they were accompanied, as in the breaking down of the old feudal landmarks and distinctions, the more and more general recognition of the claims of the many against those of the long-privileged few, the growth of sympathy between man and man and class and class, and the spread of popular education, with all the increased opportunities for personal development which this entailed. Beyond any other period in our history, the Victorian Age was an age of social interests and practical ideals, and it was by these that much of its literature was inspired and fed. For proof of this assertion, we need only turn to the works of such writers as Carlyle, Ruskin, Dickens, Kingsley, and Mrs. Browning.

      Meanwhile, the progress of science kept pace with the progress of democracy, and in the fifty years with which we are here concerned men added far more to their positive knowledge of themselves and the universe than their forefathers had done in all the preceding eighteen centuries of our era. Nor is this unparalleled increase of knowledge the only point to be considered. In estimating the influence of science upon life and literature, it is further to be remembered that by reason of the spread of popular education, newspapers, magazines, and cheap books, the facts and speculations of the experts were no longer kept to the experts themselves, but passed rapidly into the possession of the reading public at large. This was, for example, the case with the greatest of all modern generalizations, the doctrine of evolution, which we specially associate with the names of Darwin, Wallace, and Herbert Spencer, and concerning which it is not too much to say that before the Victorian Age had closed it had completely revolutionized all current ideas about nature, man, and society. A vast upheaval in thought was the consequence of this rapid progress and popularisation of knowledge; new theories came into conflict with old faiths; the ancient intellectual order was shaken at its foundations. Hence the Victorian Age was marked throughout by the prominence of the spirit of inquiry and criticism, by skepticism and religious uncertainty, and by spiritual struggle and unrest; and these are among the most persistent and characteristic notes of its higher literature. At the same time, the analytical and critical habit of mind which was fostered by science profoundly affected literature in other ways, and a marked development of realism was one conspicuous result. Finally, we must recognize the far-reaching changes which were brought about by the practical application of science to life in the railway, the steamship, and the telegraph. By breaking down the barriers which had hitherto separated town and country and nation and nation, by facilitating travel and the intercourse of different peoples, and by making the transmission of thought easy and rapid, these mechanical agencies did much to destroy the old provincialism, to help the progress of democracy, and to change fundamentally the spirit of the world. They have therefore to be included among the chief social forces in the literature of Victorian England.

      We cannot, however, get even an approximately complete idea of these social forces unless we bear in mind one important principle of historical interpretation—that every strong movement invariably sets up a counter-movement. In our study of the literature of the Age of Tennyson the power of the great counter-movement against the domination of science, for example, can never be left out of account. In fact, science affected literature as much by the opposition it created as by its direct influence; it tended to materialism alike in thought and in life; and a great deal that is noblest in Victorian literature was inspired by the desire to check this tendency, and to proclaim the eternal value of spiritual things. At this point, too, we must recognize the significance of the romantic revival, in connection with which much striking work was now done. Here, as always, romanticism was largely associated with an imaginative return to the past; but its prompting motives were dissatisfaction with the ugliness of modern materialistic civilization and a determination to escape from the narrow limitations of the realistic theory of art. In the end, the romantic spirit combined with the spirit of social reform, and its protest against materialism assumed a practical character.

      Owing to the astonishing wealth and variety of the literature of the Age of Tennyson only the barest sketch of it can be attempted here. Many names must be omitted altogether, and even those writers who are selected on account of their personal or historical importance must be treated with the utmost brevity. Dealing first with verse, we will give the greatest space to the two chief poets of the time—Tennyson and Browning.

      ALFRED TENNYSON was born in 1809, won the Chancellor’s medal at Cambridge in 1829 for a poem on Timbuctoo, became poet-laureate in 1850 (the year of his marriage) in succession to Wordsworth, was raised to the peerage as Lord Tennyson in 1884, and died in 1892. His activity as a poet extended over more than sixty years. His first important work appeared in 1833, but it was by the two volumes of 1842 that his position was assured as, in Wordsworth’s language, “decidedly the greatest of our living poets”. Then came The Princess in 1847; In Memoriam, a philosophic elegy inspired by the death of his dear friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, in 1850; Maud: A Monodrama) in 1854; and Enoch Arden and Other Poems in 1864. In the meantime, he had begun work on the story of Arthur and the Round Table, a subject which occupied his attention for many years, for, while the first four Idylls of the King were published in 1859, the twelfth and last installment of the series was not issued till 1885. For upwards of a decade, he devoted his energies mainly to the drama, his principal productions in this new field being the three historical plays, Queen Mary (1875), Harold (1876), and Becket (1884). His later writings included, along with many very different things, the remarkable philosophical poems, The Ancient Sage, Vastness, and Akbar’s Dream, and the superb lyric (now always printed, in accordance with his directions, as the last poem in any complete edition of his works) Crossing the Bar.

      Perhaps after Milton the most conscientious and accomplished poetic artist in our literature, Tennyson is noteworthy for the even perfection of his style, his wonderful mastery of language at once simple and ornate, and the exquisite and varied music of his verse. But from the strictly historical point of view, he is especially interesting as the most thoroughly representative poet of his age. He was to Victorian England what three centuries earlier Spenser, as we have seen (see 26) had been to the England of Elizabeth, and much that is most deeply characteristic of its spirit entered into the texture of his writings. As Mr. Stopford Brooke has said: “For more than sixty years he lived close to the present life of England, as far as he was capable of comprehending and sympathizing with its movements; and he inwove what he felt concerning it into his poetry.” The extraordinary diversity of his work is itself typical of the strongly marked eclecticism of his age. He wrote on classical, romantic, and modern subjects; on subjects taken (like Wordsworth’s) from humble and rustic life; on English history and Celtic legend; on the deepest problems of philosophy and religion; and the range of his method and style is scarcely less remarkable than that of his matter. But even more typical are the content and quality of his poems. His Locksley Hall of 1842 is full of the restless spirit of ‘young England’ and of its faith in science, commerce, and the progress of mankind; while its sequel, Locksley Hall Sixty Years After (1886) shows the revulsion of feeling which had occurred in many minds when the rapid development of science seemed to threaten the very foundations of religion, and commerce was filling the world with the sordid greed of gain. In The Princess the poet undertook to grapple with one of the rising questions of the day—that of the higher education of women and their place in the fast-changing conditions of modern society; Maud quivers with the patriotic passion of the time of the Crimean War and with the general ferment by which this was accompanied; in the Idylls of the King, while the medieval machinery is retained, the old story is turned into a parable the lessons of which are obviously intended to bear directly upon contemporary life. The change which Tennyson’s thought underwent in regard to social and political questions itself reveals his curious sensitiveness to the tendencies of his time; for the sanguine temper of his early manhood, the doubts, misgivings, and reactionary utterances of his middle age, and the chastened hopefulness of his last years, are alike reflections of successive moods which were widely characteris¬tic of his generation. But politically and socially he stands out as, on the whole, the poetic exponent of the cautious spirit of Victorian liberalism. He was essentially the poet of law and order as well as of progress; he held tenaciously to the great heritage of English tradition; and while he firmly believed that in the divine scheme of things

‘The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfills himself in many ways Lest one good custom should corrupt the world’,

      He was quite as firmly opposed to ‘raw haste’, rash experiments, and everything that savored of revolution. Nor must we neglect to note that, apart altogether from any special political principles, Tennyson’s poetry is often the vehicle of the spreading democratic sympathies of Victorian England. Recluse and aristocrat as he was, he was profoundly interested in common people and common things; and it is not the least significant feature of his work in the mass that along with The Princess, Maud, the Idylls of the King, it contains such things as The May Queen, Enoch Arden, and Dora.

      While, however, Tennyson’s poetry is thus historically interesting on the social and political sides, it is even more important as a record of the intellectual and spiritual life of the time. A careful student of science and philosophy, he was deeply impressed by the far-reaching meaning of the new discoveries and speculations by which the edifice of the old thought had been undermined, and especially by the wide bearings of the doctrine of evolution; and at once skeptical and mystical in his own temper, he was peculiarly fitted to become the mouth-piece of his century’s doubts, difficulties, and craving for the certainties of religious faith. The ‘two voices’ of that century are perpetually heard in his work; in In Memoriam, more than in any other contemporary piece of verse or prose, we may read of its great conflict of doubt and faith; while in many later poems—as notably in The Ancient Sage—we may see how the poet challenged the current materialism and asserted the eternal verities of God and immortality. Here, too, the particular quality of Tennyson’s poetry of nature should be emphasized. He studied nature as closely and knew it as well as Wordsworth, and, like Wordsworth, he was always absolutely faithful in his rendering of even the minutest details. But Wordsworth had seen nature with the eye of the poet only, while Tennyson saw it with the eye of the scientist as well. He loved its beauty, but he felt also its indifference and cruelty, and, as a famous passage in In Memoriam (54-56) shows us, his keen sense of the cosmic struggle was one of the most disturbing elements in his thought. It must, however, be added that his persistent belief in evolution always steadied and encouraged him, and helped him to look beyond the struggle towards the “one far-off divine event to which the whole creation moves”.

      ROBERT BROWNING was born in 1812, began to write poetry early—his Pauline appeared in 1833—and, like his friend Tennyson, devoted his long life entirely to literature. He published Paracelsus in 1835; Strafford (a tragedy produced by Macready at Covent Garden) in 1837; Sordello in 1840; and a collection of dramatic and miscellaneous poems under the general title of Bells and Pomegranates at intervals between 1841 and 1846. In the last-named year he married Elizabeth Barrett, whose reputation as a poet then stood higher with the general reading world than his own, for, like Wordsworth, he was a long time in reconciling popular taste to the peculiarities of his method and style. The fifteen happy years of his married life were spent in Italy, and during this period he wrote Christmas Eve and Easter Day (1850); and Men and Women (1855). After his wife’s death in 1861 he settled again in England, and published Dramatis Personae in 1864, and his enormous dramatic narrative poem, The Ring and the Book, in four volumes, in 1868-69. By this time he had completely conquered his public, and during the twenty remaining years of his life, his popularity was as great as Tennyson’s. His fertility continued unabated, but except for occasional lyrics, it cannot be said that his numerous later writings did anything to add to his reputation. His last volume, Asolando, was published on the very day—December 12, 1889—that he died in the Palazzo Rezzonico in Venice.

      In contrast with Tennyson, Browning was bold, rugged, and altogether unconventional in matter and style, and though never careless in his writing (as is sometimes erroneously supposed), he was too vehement and too impatient to bestow time and effort upon the polishing of his verse. Much of his work—and especially of his later work—is in consequence prolix and ill-digested; it is often also marred by harshness and crudities of expression and by faults in taste; while despite the heroic attempts of some of his more extravagant admirers to rebut the charge, the obscurity of not a little of his production cannot be denied. But notwithstanding many obvious defects, his greatness as a poet is quite beyond dispute; and though it is necessary to qualify the claims put forth by adherents of the ‘Browning cult’, critics of all schools now combine in recognizing the supreme strength and beauty, and the enduring poetic value, of what is best and of this there is much in his work.

      His genius was essentially dramatic; but as his interest was centered throughout in the moral and spiritual forces and conflicts of individual men and women rather than in the world of action, it was not through the machinery of the regular stage-play that he found his most natural outlet. His characteristic art form (a form which has been used by other poets, but by none so effectively), was the detached speech, or dramatic monologue, in which he takes some striking individual—generally at a critical moment—and instead of dissecting him from the outside, as the ordinary novelist would do, penetrates to the depth of his nature and through his own utterances compels him to reveal the innermost secrets of his life. Psychological insight, analytical subtlety, and power of dramatic interpretation are among the main features of Browning’s poetry; splendid examples of his method are to be found in many of the poems in Men and Women and Dramatis Personae; while, except for the introduction and conclusion, this is the method adopted in the largest (if not the greatest) of his works, The Ring and the Book.

      As a moralist and religious teacher, Browning held a very distinct place among the writers of the Victorian Age. An uncompromising foe of scientific materialism, he preached God and immortality as the central truths of his philosophy of life, and he preached them as one absolutely assured of their reality. Nor was it only the negations of the current philosophy that he challenged. His poetry was a protest also against the pessimistic mood engendered by them. The melancholy, hesitating spirit so often expressed by Tennyson finds no place in his verse, and he looked boldly at the evil of existence without for a moment losing his robustly optimistic faith. “Hope hard in the subtle thing that’s spirit”, was the note of his message to his generation; and to the many about him who were asking doubtfully whether after all life was really worth the living, he gave answer in the words of his Pippa—“God’s in His heaven—all’s right with the world.”

      Other Poets of the Period. After Tennyson and Browning, who stand head and shoulders above all their fellows, it is not easy to settle the order of precedence among the many poets of the Victorian Age; but the third place may perhaps be assigned to MATTHEW ARNOLD (1822-1888). A thorough classicist by sympathy and training, and with an admiration of the Greeks so strong that it sometimes led him astray, Arnold believed that all really great poetry is impersonal or objective poetry (like the drama and the epic), in which the poet escapes from himself and from the conditions of his own world, while subjective poetry, or the poetry of self-expression, necessarily and as such belongs to a lower artistic plane. It was in accordance with this theory that his most ambitious poems—Sohrab and Rustum, Tristram and Iseult, Balder Dead, and Empedocles on Etna were written; but carefully wrought as these productions are, they impress us as rather academic, imitative, and unreal. All critical principles notwithstanding, the bias of his genius was towards the poetry of self-expression, and his best work was done when, ignoring theory, he gave his mind free play. Most of his personal poetry is steeped in the melancholy spirit of an era of transition. Its keynote is struck in the Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse:

Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
The other powerless to be born;

      And it carries with it a heavy burden of doubt. Yet Arnold’s ethical temper was so noble, and his hold upon the great ideals of conduct and duty so steady, that his sadness, though at times depressing, is never enervating. In style he was cold and clear; his ear was imperfect, and there is little verbal felicity or natural magic in his verse; but its fine restraint and sculpturesque purity are worthy of high praise. Arnold has never been a popular poet, but he has always had his audience ‘fit, though few’.

      With Arnold, it is natural to associate ARTHUR HUGH CLOUGH (1819-1861), both because the two men were friends (Arnold’s Thyrsis is a noble monody on Clough’s death), and because they were in many ways, spiritual kinsmen. Clough’s personal poetry was regarded by Mr. Lowell as “the truest expression in verse of the moral and intellectual tendencies, the doubt and struggle towards settled convictions, of the period in which he lived”; it resembles Arnold’s in its skeptical quality, its transparent sincerity, and its moral earnestness and courage. Among his longer poems, there is one—the delightful Bothie of Toher-na-Vuolich - Which deserves to be better known than it is. But though, for the reason assigned, he is mentioned here, Clough’s place is only among the minor poets.

       The case is different with ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (1806-1861), who holds her position as the most considerable and vigorous, if not the greatest, of all our women writers of verse. She wrote far too much and too fast; she was singularly deficient in the faculty of self-criticism; and her faults were many and glaring. Her poetry is frequently marked by overwrought emotionalism, which often becomes hysterical and sometimes degenerates into downright gush; she is often spasmodic and even vulgar; and prolixity, diffuseness, straining after effect, and gross abuses in diction and rime, have to be reckoned among her characteristics. But at her best, she exhibits the redeeming qualities of noble sincerity, genuine passion, and undeniable power over language. Her romantic poems show the continued influence of the spirit of the outgoing age; poems like Casa Guidi Windows, her love of liberty and Italy; poems like the Cry of the Children, the same humanitarian enthusiasm as we have in the novels of Dickens and Kingsley and in Hood’s Song of the Shirt. Such social purpose is also the inspiration of her most ambitious effort, Aurora Leigh, a long poem in blank verse which, save for its form, might really be classed as a novel. Arnold, we have noted, held that the poet should go out of his age as well as out of himself in his search for subject matter. Mrs. Browning, on the contrary, maintained by theory and practice that it should be one chief aim of the poet to meet the age face to face. Hence the realism and the reform spirit which were so prominent in contemporary prose fiction are here found invading poetry as well. But, though Aurora Leigh was probably Mrs. Browning’s most popular achievement, her finest work is to be sought in the series of sonnets entitled Sonnets from the Portuguese, in which she enshrined her love. These have their place among the masterpieces of the love-poetry of our literature, and as an expression of a woman’s passion are practically unique.

      I have spoken of the romantic revival as one of the principal counter movements against the dominant scientific and commercial spirit of the Victorian Age, and have noted that its protest took the characteristic form of a return to the past. The mediaevalism, the influences of which have already been traced from the middle of the eighteenth century onward, after waning for a time, now again became a potent force in literature and art. It is represented in both by the painter-poet, DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI (1828-1882), the leading figure in the artistic movement called Pre-Raphaelitism, the very name of which is indicative of its inspiration and purpose. Singularly unmodern in all his sympathies and ways of thinking, and with practically no interest in the life of his time, Rossetti was, in Mr. Hall Caine’s language, “an anachronism in these days”. The real home of his imagination was, in fact, not the London of the nineteenth century in which his lot was cast, but the Florence of Dante’s era, and his identification with medieval ideas and feelings was so complete that in such poems as The Blessed Damozel, Worlds Worthy and Ave, we seem to breathe the very atmosphere of the Vita Nuova, Paradiso, and the works of the great Catholic painters. This is the more remarkable because, so far as his intellectual convictions were concerned, Rossetti was not a Catholic but an agnostic. As a ballad-writer he was very successful, especially in dealing with situations of tragic intensity, as in The White Ship, Sister Helen, and Eden Bower; as a sonnet-writer, as in the fine series, The House of Life, he ranks with our greatest. His technique was very remarkable, and he had a curious felicity in diction and riming. But his poetry as a whole is not very wholesome in tone, and its rare and exotic beauty is at times more than a little suggestive of decadence.

      Rossetti’s sister, CHRISTINA GEORGINA ROSSETTI (1830-1894) is the only other woman poet in our literature who can fairly be placed beside Mrs. Browning. Her work is characterized by deep religious feeling, a pronounced strain of mysticism, and much metrical charm. It is not through Christina, however, but rather through WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896), that the main line of Rossetti’s influence, and more broadly, of the romanticism represented by him, is to be traced. Morris’s early works—Defence of Guinevere and Other Poems (1858), The Life and Death of Jason (1867), and The Earthly Paradise (1868-70)—are purely romantic in method and style, though their undertone of sadness served to remind the critical reader that, while the poet deliberately turned his back upon his time, he could not altogether escape its troubled spirit. Later, under the influence of Ruskin and of his own growing revulsion from the ugliness of modern commercialism, Morris became a socialist. His mediaevalism thus changed from vague sentimental regret over the past into a positive program for the future. This transformation of the ‘idle singer of an empty day’ (Morris’s early description of himself) into an ardent and active reformer, is very interesting as showing the powerful sway of social interests during the Victorian period. It was with him, in particular, that the protest of romanticism against materialism assumed, as I have said, a practical form.

      The last to die of the great race of Victorian poets, ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE (1837-1909), also belonged to the romantic stock, though many other influences in the complex culture of his time entered into his work. Extremely prolific and versatile, he wrote Greek tragedies (A tai anta in Calydon and Erechtheus rank among our very finest attempts to revive the pure classic form); an English dramatic trilogy on Mary Stuart; experiments in medieval mystery plays; long narrative poems of great passion and beauty, of which Tristram of Lyonesse is perhaps the best; a large body of political poems, the revolutionary fervor of which is strongly suggestive of one of the writer’s chief masters, Victor Hugo; odes of many kinds; monologues, and gorgeous lyrics without number. It is, however, primarily as a lyrist that he will hold his place in our literature. He showed almost unparalleled mastery over the resources of language and meter, and his daring in the use of both was unbounded. But his facility was often fatal and his fondness for mere verbal effects was a frequent snare. His power of saying things were astonishing, but on the whole, he had very little to say, and despite the genuine inspiration of much of his writing, it suffers from its relatively unsubstantial character. Swinburne was capable of producing miracles of word-music, but something more than word-music is necessary to ensure the permanence of a poem.

      Such remaining poets of the Age of Tennyson as have here to be mentioned must be put into a paragraph. For convenience, they may be arranged in the chronological order of their births.

      SIR HENRY TAYLOR (1800-1886) did most of his work in verse in the dramatic form. He wrote tragedies in the severer Elizabethan manner, of which the best is Philip van Artevelde, and one romantic comedy, The Virgin Widow, or A Sicilian Summer. ROBERT STEPHEN HAWKER (1803-1875), the extremely eccentric vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall, was a man of curiously medieval cast of mind, and even shared many of the crudest superstitions of the simple village folk among whom he lived. His finest poem, The Quest of the Sangreal, is full of the genuine spirit of the great medieval adventure, and therefore presents an interesting contrast with Tennyson’s thoroughly modernized narra¬tive in the Idylls of the King. EDWARD FITZGERALD (1809-1883), one of Tennyson’s closest friends, produced little verse, but that little included one of the best-known and most fascinating of all modern English poems his free translation, or paraphrase, of the Rubaiyat (or Quatrains) of the Persian astronomer-poet of the eleventh century, Omar Khayyam. This translation had little success at first, but it gradually won its way, and it has now long been recognized as one of the poetic masterpieces of the time. Its history is therefore strikingly different from that of the Proverbial Philosophy of MARTIN FARQUHAR TUPPER (1810-1889), a collection of highly didactic pieces in loosely rhythmical prose, which for many years sold by the hundred thousand, but are now relegated to the dust-heap of unread things. Another poet who enjoyed great fame in his day, and is now hardly more than a name, was PHILIP JAMES BAILEY (1816-1902), whose enormous Festus, upon which his reputation rests, created a sensation upon its first publication and was treated by serious reviewers as belonging to the same class as Paradise Lost and Faust. Tennyson passed sound judgment upon it when he described it, in effect, as a dull poem containing many grand things. The obvious straining after originality of expression, which we have noted in the case of Mrs. Browning, is conspicuous again in it, and its overwrought sentiment, its forced and unnatural phraseology, its pomposity and inflation, are worthy of remark, because it is this poem which is commonly regarded as the principal agency in creating, or at least fostering, what was known as the ‘spasmodic school’ of poetry. Other writers of this school of some note in their time were SYDNEY DOBELL (1824-1874), the author of The Roman and Balder, and ALEXANDER SMITH (1830-1867), whose Life Drama (published when the writer was only twenty-one) gave promises which were never redeemed. Dobell and Smith are examples of exploded reputations. On the other hand, the work of JAMES THOMSON (1834-1882) is likely to gain rather than lose in critical appreciation as time goes on. His City of Dreadful Night is a poem of pessimism and blank despair; but whatever one may think of the views of life embodied in it, one can hardly praise too highly its gloomy power, its imaginative strength, and the sonorous and stately music of its verse. To the foregoing list, by no means complete, of Victorian poets, we may just add the names of a few writers, who did noteworthy work in verse, though they gained their principal laurels in other fields. LORD MACAULAY won fame with his stirring Lays of Ancient Rome, and the versatile LORD LYTT ON with a romantic epic, King Arthur, and the more important Lost Tales of Miletus. THACKERAY had a real talent for serious as well as for humorous poetry, and some of his lyrics are very tender and true. GEORGE ELIOT’S poetry is considerable in quantity, and her Spanish Gypsy, Agatha, The Legend of Jubal, and How Lisa Loved the King, have many of the great intellectual and moral qualities of her prose fiction, but they are wanting in real poetic inspiration. KINGSLEY’S verse, on the contrary, leaves every reader with a sense of regret that there is so little of it. His Saint's Tragedy and Andromeda are both things of note, and his songs and ballads are admirable.

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