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Ripping the pig

Robert Bernard Martin

5 August 1982
The Letters of Alfred LordTennysonVol. 1 1821-1850 
edited by Cecil Lang and Edgar Shannon.
Oxford, 366 pp., £17.50, February 1982, 0 19 812569 0
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Tennyson‘In Memoriam’ 
edited by Susan Shatto and Marion Shaw.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1982, 0 19 812747 2
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... Two months after Tennyson’s death Burne-Jones was reluctantly following the instructions of the poet’s widow and son in repainting the portrait of Tennyson as a young man which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. Emily Tennyson had never liked the picture, perhaps in part because she also disliked Edward FitzGerald, who had originally commissioned it from Samuel Laurence ...

Tennyson’s Text

Danny Karlin

12 November 1987
The Poems of Tennyson 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Longman, 662 pp., £40, May 1987, 0 582 49239 4
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Tennyson’s ‘Maud’: A Definitive Edition 
edited by Susan Shatto.
Athlone, 296 pp., £28, August 1986, 0 485 11294 9
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The Letters of Alfred LordTennyson. Vol.2: 1851-1870 
edited by Cecil Lang and Edgar Shannon.
Oxford, 585 pp., £40, May 1987, 0 19 812691 3
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The New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 654 pp., £15.95, June 1987, 0 19 214154 6
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... Writing in 1842 to his friend Alfred Domett, who had emigrated to New Zealand, Robert Browning enclosed ‘Tennyson’s new vol. and, alas, the old with it – that is what he calls old’. Browning was referring to the two-volume Poems of 1842, whose first volume consisted of heavily revised versions of poems published in 1830 and 1832 ...

Are we there yet?

Seamus Perry: Tennyson

20 January 2011
The Major Works 
by Alfred Tennyson, edited by Adam Roberts.
Oxford, 626 pp., £10.99, August 2009, 978 0 19 957276 2
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... When Auden announced in his preface to a new selection that Tennyson was ‘undoubtedly the stupidest’ of all the English poets he must have known that he was asking for trouble. Trouble duly came in the shape of Sir Desmond MacCarthy, who doggedly stood up in the Sunday Times for the quality of Tennyson’s mind, deplored Auden’s account of the great man as ‘very patronising’, then sought to out-patronise him in turn: ‘It reads as if Mr Auden had been feeling while he wrote it like a middle-aged schoolmaster preparing a report on little Alfred’s work and behaviour ...

Charles and Alfred

J.I.M. Stewart

17 December 1981
Studies in Tennyson 
edited by Hallam Tennyson.
Macmillan, 229 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 333 27884 4
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... page of this book tells us that it is ‘published to commemorate the centenary of Sir Charles Tennyson, the poet’s grandson and biographer, born 8 November 1879, died 22 June 1977’. Charles Tennyson was very far from being the most eccentric of all the Tennysons, but he is the ...

Ripping Yarns

John Sutherland

8 April 1993
Tennyson 
by Michael Thorn.
Little, Brown, 566 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 316 90299 3
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Tennyson 
by Peter Levi.
Macmillan, 370 pp., £20, March 1993, 0 333 52205 2
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... three of Stevenson (one down, two to come); and – with the present centennial haul – three of Tennyson. Given the huge expenditure of scholarly energy modern biography demands it would be rational to redistribute some of it. One would like more studies such as Claire Tomalin’s of Ellen Ternan, or Rosemary Ashton’s of G.H. Lewes, which illumine by ...

Amigos

Christopher Ricks

2 August 1984
The Faber Book of Parodies 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 383 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 571 13125 5
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Lilibet: An Account in Verse of the Early Years of the Queen until the Time of her Accession 
by Her Majesty.
Blond and Briggs, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1984, 0 85634 157 6
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... for telling me’ is very much better as Carroll wrote it, without the ‘very’. A poet called Lord AlfredTennyson, not to be confused with Alfred Lord Douglas, briefly surfaces like the Kraken; the poem is here a Mort and there a Morte. Max Beerbohm’s parody of Henry ...

Smorgasbits

Ian Sansom: Jim Crace

15 November 2001
The Devil's Larder 
by Jim Crace.
Viking, 194 pp., £12.99, September 2001, 0 670 88145 7
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... but these days his sentences sound forth as hoary pronouncements, less like Dickens and more like Alfred LordTennyson: speculative, morbid and poetic. Significantly, and most shockingly, there is no trace of bathos, that most common and undignified of modern effects, running beneath and below his lines. Indeed, in all ...
7 June 1984
A Portrait of Fryn: A Biography of F. Tennyson Jesse 
by Joanna Colenbrander.
Deutsch, 305 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 233 97572 1
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... According to Rebecca West, F. Tennyson Jesse was ‘ideally beautiful. I have never seen a lovelier girl.’ A sketch in Joanna Colenbrander’s biography shows a flat, winsome face with wide, rather fishy eyes; her thin limbs are splayed out with flapperish elegance. It may be that her attractions – a fat bundle of love-letters was destroyed when she died, and Mrs Colenbrander finds several witnesses to testify to her ‘aura’ – had less to do with ideal beauty than with loquaciousness and flair ...
9 July 1992
‘Rain-Charm for the Duchy’ and other Laureate Poems 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 64 pp., £12.99, June 1992, 0 571 16605 9
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... from Ireland, and it seemed a good idea to knock off a little ‘Horatian Ode’ to welcome the Lord Protector home. Larkin had his own wholly characteristic way of dealing with a royal occasion. In times when nothing stood but worsened, or grew strange, there was one constant good:         she did not change. Coming first upon that in the ...

Aubade before Breakfast

Tom Crewe: Balfour and the Souls

30 March 2016
Balfour’s World: Aristocracy and Political Culture at the Fin de Siècle 
by Nancy Ellenberger.
Boydell, 414 pp., £30, September 2015, 978 1 78327 037 8
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... talent for a dreamy sort of introspection: ‘You all sit and talk about each other’s souls,’ Lord Charles Beresford said. Their children, buoyant on champagne and self-belief, were the first to turn against them. ‘Their minds are almshouses [for] outworn notions and wrinkled phrases,’ Raymond Asquith, Margot’s stepson, sneered. ‘We do not hunt ...

The Crystal Palace Experience

E.S. Turner: The Great Exhibition of 1851

25 November 1999
The Great Exhibition of 1851: A Nation on Display 
by Jeffrey Auerbach.
Yale, 280 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 300 08007 7
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... Officially this was The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. Its contents, as Tennyson explained, were ‘Brought from under every star,/Blown from over every main’, but it was much more than a display of husbandry, ‘enginery’ and ‘secrets of the sullen mine’. Subtly, and rather mysteriously, the nation was brainwashed into ...

Darwin Won’t Help

Terry Eagleton: Evocriticism

24 September 2009
On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition and Fiction 
by Brian Boyd.
Harvard, 540 pp., £25.95, May 2009, 978 0 674 03357 3
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... the body to render it suitable for urbanism, technological change or socialist revolution. From Alfred Tennyson to the Soviet Proletkultists, the human sensorium was to be reshaped by art. Art would help us come to terms with the fact that Darwin had apparently struck all purpose from the cosmos, or it would construct the New Man demanded by the first ...

The School of English

Hilary Mantel: ‘The School of English’: A Story

6 May 2015
... to all seeking domestic work,’ she said. ‘It is only a magazine. It is not the works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It is not a manual of magic spells.’ ‘Impertinence will not carry you far,’ the butler said. ‘Only by a short route to dismissal, and no employment tribunal for you, do not think it. Her ...

Horrid Mutilation! Read all about it!

Richard Davenport-Hines: Jack the Ripper and the London Press by Perry Curtis

4 April 2002
Jack the Ripper and the London Press 
by Perry Curtis.
Yale, 354 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 300 08872 8
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... When Tennyson and Jowett sat up late together, it was to talk of murders. The Victorians took a ghoulish pleasure in every phase of their more ghastly homicides; from the moment a corpse was found the hunt for morbid thrills was intense. After seven members of the Marshall family were hacked to death at Denham in 1870, ‘pleasure vans’ brought hordes of day-trippers from London to see the gore, and to purloin souvenirs ...

Boomster and the Quack

Stefan Collini: How to Get on in the Literary World

2 November 2006
Writers, Readers and Reputations: Literary Life in Britain 1870-1918 
by Philip Waller.
Oxford, 1181 pp., £85, April 2006, 0 19 820677 1
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... posthumously, selling an estimated 4.24 million copies in the 12 years after his death in 1870. Tennyson, the comparable grandee in poetry, naturally made much more modest sums for most of his long writing life, though by its final stages he was earning £10,000 a year from his writings in all forms. But these two were recognised as being in a class of ...

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