« PreviousContinue »
would have to turn for the true presentment of the man. The poet, of all men, lives in his works. In comparison with their revealing flashes, a matter-of-fact record of dates and events throws but a dim and uncertain light.
such a record has an interest of its own, and in the case of a poet who holds so large a place in the world's esteem as Lord Tennyson, it may be regarded as more or less indispensable.
H. J. J.
THE materials for a biography of Lord Tennyson, apart from the purely literary incidents of his life, are not considerable. Few among the noteworthy personages of our time have more assiduously shrunk from the public gaze, or have shunned with a more sensitive persistency the "fierce light" which, in this prying age, beats upon the domestic concerns of eminent men. His life has been essentially one of retirement, yielding little to the literary leeches" who swarm in these days that deal in ana." Seldom, during a long life, to be met with in that vortex of wasted ambitions which one calls "fashionable society,"-taking but small part in public affairs,—avoiding with something of shyness whatever of conventional cere
mony and popular hero-worship he could possibly escape, he has, in a very literal sense of the words, "dwelt apart" from the hubbub and turmoil of the great world, and in his country homes, in the company of his chosen friends, secluded as much as circumstances have allowed from the reach of the curious, has led a life of studious contemplation, shaping into imperishable verse the strivings of the poet's soul. Although more recently the mellowing influences of three score and ten years have relaxed somewhat the austerity of his isolation and social reserve, it may be truly said that he has cherished for the most part an emphatic prejudice against, sometimes deepening into a great hatred of, the babbledom that dogs the heels of fame. At all events he has never given the faintest encouragement to those enterprising littérateurs who delude themselves with the comforting belief that they are benefiting mankind by lifting the curtain which veils the privacy of a great man's home life. That he has a wholesome dread of the fate which, even after a poet has shuffled off this mortal coil, may await him at the hands of indiscreet and irresponsible biographers, is shown by the verses which,
in 1849, he wrote in the Examiner, "after reading the Life and Letters of a Deceased Poet:"
"For now the poet cannot die,
Nor leave his music as of old,
But round him ere he scarce be cold
"Proclaim the faults he would not show :
Break lock and seal : betray the trust:
Keep nothing sacred : 'tis but just
"Ah shameless! for he did but sing
A song that pleased us from its worth ;
No public life was his on earth,
No blazoned statesman he, nor king.
"He gave the people of his best :
His worst he kept, his best he gave.
My Shakespeare's curse on clown and knave
The passionate indignation of these lines has lost none of its fire, nor the invocation any of its warning. They remind the biographer, if he were in any need of such a reminder, that the range of his inquiries has limitations, and that the scope of his narrative must be bounded by