Hearts of Controversy by Alice Christiana Thompson Meynell


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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Hearts of Controversy, by Alice Meynell


This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net





Title: Hearts of Controversy

Author: Alice Meynell

Release Date: March 14, 2005 [eBook #1243]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK HEARTS OF CONTROVERSY***




Transcribed from the 1918 Burns & Oates edition by David Price, email
ccx074@coventry.ac.uk





HEARTS OF CONTROVERSY


Contents:

Some Thoughts of a Reader of Tennyson
Dickens as a Man of Letters
Swinburne's Lyrical Poetry
Charlotte and Emily Bronte
Charmian
The Century of Moderation




SOME THOUGHTS OF A READER OF TENNYSON


Fifty years after Tennyson's birth he was saluted a great poet by that
unanimous acclamation which includes mere clamour. Fifty further years,
and his centenary was marked by a new detraction. It is sometimes
difficult to distinguish the obscure but not unmajestic law of change
from the sorry custom of reaction. Change hastes not and rests not,
reaction beats to and fro, flickering about the moving mind of the world.
Reaction--the paltry precipitancy of the multitude--rather than the
novelty of change, has brought about a ferment and corruption of opinion
on Tennyson's poetry. It may be said that opinion is the same now as it
was in the middle of the nineteenth century--the same, but turned. All
that was not worth having of admiration then has soured into detraction
now. It is of no more significance, acrid, than it was, sweet. What the
herding of opinion gave yesterday it is able to take away to-day, that
and no more.

But besides the common favour-disfavour of the day, there is the tendency
of educated opinion, once disposed to accept the whole of Tennyson's
poetry as though he could not be "parted from himself," and now disposed
to reject the whole, on the same plea. But if ever there was a poet who
needed to be thus "parted"--the word is his own--it is he who wrote both
narrowly for his time and liberally for all time, and who--this is the
more important character of his poetry--had both a style and a manner: a
masterly style, a magical style, a too dainty manner, nearly a trick; a
noble landscape and in it figures something ready-made. He is a subject
for our alternatives of feeling, nay, our conflicts, as is hardly another
poet. We may deeply admire and wonder, and, in another line or
hemistich, grow indifferent or slightly averse. He sheds the luminous
suns of dreams upon men & women who would do well with footlights; waters
their way with rushing streams of Paradise and cataracts from visionary
hills; laps them in divine darkness; leads them into those touching
landscapes, "the lovely that are not beloved;" long grey fields, cool
sombre summers, and meadows thronged with unnoticeable flowers; speeds
his carpet knight--or is that hardly a just name for one whose sword
"smites" so well?--upon a carpet of authentic wild flowers; pushes his
rovers, in costume, from off blossoming shores, on the keels of old
romance. The style and the manner, I have said, run side by side. If we
may take one poet's too violent phrase, and consider poets to be "damned
to poetry," why, then, Tennyson is condemned by a couple of sentences,
"to run concurrently." We have the style and the manner locked together
at times in a single stanza, locked and yet not mingled. There should be
no danger for the more judicious reader lest impatience at the peculiar
Tennyson trick should involve the great Tennyson style in a sweep of
protest. Yet the danger has in fact proved real within the present and
recent years, and seems about to threaten still more among the less
judicious. But it will not long prevail. The vigorous little nation of
lovers of poetry, alive one by one within the vague multitude of the
nation of England, cannot remain finally insensible to what is at once
majestic and magical in Tennyson. For those are not qualities they
neglect in their other masters. How, valuing singleness of heart in the
sixteenth century, splendour in the seventeenth, composure in the
eighteenth; how, with a spiritual ear for the note--commonly called
Celtic, albeit it is the most English thing in the world--the wild wood
note of the remoter song; how, with the educated sense of style, the
liberal sense of ease; how, in a word, fostering Letters and loving
Nature, shall that choice nation within England long disregard these
virtues in the nineteenth-century master? How disregard him, for more
than the few years of reaction, for the insignificant reasons of his
bygone taste, his insipid courtliness, his prettiness, or what not? It
is no dishonour to Tennyson, for it is a dishonour to our education, to
disparage a poet who wrote but the two--had he written no more of their
kind--lines of "The Passing of Arthur," of which, before I quote them, I
will permit myself the personal remembrance of a great contemporary
author's opinion. Mr. Meredith, speaking to me of the high-water mark of
English style in poetry and prose, cited those lines as topmost in
poetry:-

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