7 JULY 1894, Page 26


MR. STOPFORD BROOKE ON TENNYSON.* TiatEBE is very much in this volume of Mr. Stopford Brooke's that will be welcomed by all lovers of Tennyson, much that

they will gladly dwell on, even though they may not go with kiln in all his judgments. Perhaps the best part of the book is the introduction, where Mr. Brooke has been obliged to deal more concisely with, his subject than elsewhere, and the too florid use of laudatory adjectives, which later tend to weaken his style, has been kept in check. Not that he is by any means incapable of seeing his hero's faults and limita- tions, or of 'saying decidedly in what they consist, but in Cis very genuine love of his subject he grows too diffuse, repeats himself too often, and falls at times into a rather vague way of writing. His book would have gained in 'every way if it had been considerably condensed. Even to an ardent admirer of Tennyson, four hundred and eighty- three pages of criticism in these days of many claims and many books, is discouraging, and to the general reader the size of the book will be, to say the least, alarming. However, it is not necessary for any but a reviewer to read it through at once. The arrangement of the chapters, one or snore dealing with each of the longer poems, and the very complete index at the end of the volume, will enable students of Tennyson to refer with great ease for help or enlightenment to any poem that they may be studying at the time, and we

feel sure that in many respects their admiration and appre-

ciation of this great poet's work will be enhanced and aided by doing so.

'In the introduction, Mr. Brooke deals with Tennyson's

relation to beauty, to the Christian faith, and to the move- ment of humanity, and these relationships are touched on again in. the succeeding chapters where the subjects of the different poems call for it. Writing on Tennyson's relation.-

ship to beauty, Mr. Brooke makes some remarks on what constitutes art, which are undoubtedly very true, but which are at the same time obscured by that want of clearness of thought of which we have complained :—

" To define then," he says, " what beauty is in itself is beyond our power, but we can approach a definition of it by marking out clearly its results on us. What is always true of beauty is this, that, wherever it appears, it wakens love of it which has no return on self, but which bears us out of ourselves ; it stirs either joy or reverence in the heart without bringing with it any self-admiration or vanity ; and it kindles the desire of dosproduebag it, not that we may exult in our own skill in forming it, but that our reproduction may awaken emotions in others -similar to those which the original sight of beauty stirred in our own hearts,—that is, it more or less forces the seer into crea- tion. This creation, this reproduction of the beautiful, is art ; And the most skilful representation of the ugly—that is. of any- thing which awakes repulsion, or base pleasure, or horror which .does not free and purify the soul, or scorn instead of reverence, lar which does not kindle in us the desire of reproduction of it that we may stir in others similar emotions to our own—is not art at all. It is clever imitation, it is skill, it is artifice, it is not art. It is characteristic of an age which is writhing under the frivolous despotism of positive science that the accurate and skilful representation of things and facts which are not beautiful is called art ; and it belongs to all persons who care for the growth of humanity not to denounce the error, for denunciation is barren of results, but to live and labour for the opposite truth." (p. 14.) On a first reading, this leaves upon the mind an impression that only what is lovely and of fair repute should find a place

in art, whereas, as a matter of fact, half the poetry in the world deals with what is anything but beautiful, with what is indeed distinctly ugly in itself. Think for a moment of 'Goneril and Regan in King Lear, of Browning's Caliban or his "Spanish Cloister," of Milton's Lucifer, Goethe's Mephisto- pheles, or Tennyson's own Launcelot and Guinevere, to name but a few among the many instances of true poetry, all of which portray the morally and physically unlovely. We are quite aware that Mr. Brooke would contend that his saving clause —" anything which awakes repulsion, or base pleasure, or horror which does not free and purify the soul "—recognises

this truth; but though this he so, he has failed to make clear to his readers the important distinction between merely representing with scientific accuracy and minuteness the unlovely facts and temptations of life and that broad and ideal treatment of them which at once raises them to the level of true art. Mr. Brooke goes on to show that Tennyson Tonnyson: his Art and Retains to Modern Lifo. By Stopford A. Brook°, London: Isbistor sad Oo, was true, with but one or two exceptions, to this ideal of art which he has attempted to define, and that for the most part he found it in the loves and lives of English men and women, in the joys and sorrows, hopes, aspirations, and trials which are the common heritage of humanity. In his relation to humanity as a whole, Mr. Brooke finds Tennyson narrow and insular in his sympathies. He calls attention to the fact that the only struggles for liberty in other nations with which he sympathised were those of Poland in his young days and Montenegro in his later life. The battle for liberty in Italy is hardly mentioned by him,—the struggle of the North in the anti-slavery war of the United States, never once. Even with respect to the struggle for the betterment of the poor in his own land, Mr. Brooke complains bitterly that Tennyson is on the slow and prudent side for the development of liberty :—

Where Freedom slowly broadens down From precedent to precedent,"

and not, as in the case of Shelley and Byron, on "the side of the rushers, of the enthusiastic seekers, of the wild warriors, of the sacrificers whom the world calls insane, of the indignant men whose speech and nation Tennyson thought were the blind hysterics of the Celt." "That way," Mr. Brooke asserts, "poetry lies ; and that way lies the permanent in- fluence of a poet on humanity, so far as this question is con- corned." He admits that for half the army of liberty to support this view is right and necessary, thus forming, as it were, the ballast to steady the boat of Freedom; but for a poet to be on this side places him, he thinks, in " an un- fortunate position." With all due respect to Mr. Brooke's knowledge of the poets of whom he writes, we should say that Wordsworth and Coleridge were also in this position, except, of course, in their early manhood, when the French Revolution raised hopes for the speedy regeneration of man- kind which were destined, only too soon, to be extinguished. Except for this brief period the utterances of their thought were all on the side of self-control in the development of freedom, as in all other things. It seems to us no unworthy position for men like these. Viewing the strife from without, and therefore capable of judging more calmly than those engaged—and all honour to them—in the stress and heat of the battle—they are able to warn the combatants of the faults and errors which may, from their " raw haste," retard the onward movement of mankind, and to point out to them while they are eagerly looking towards the east for the slow rising of the sun, that westward also the land "is bright." It is with the materialistic side of Socialism, fostered by the reign of modern science, that Tennyson has little or no sym- pathy, perceiving clearly with his seer's vision that it will profit a man nothing if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul, that his (life consisteth not in the things which he possesses, and that this being true of one man, it is equally true of mankind.

In his very last book Mr. Brooke complains that Tennyson

puts the laying of the Ghost of the Brute" in men, and the millennium for which they are looking, in the dim and distant future. We are far from the noon of man, there is time for the race to grow." " Time 1 " exclaims Mr. Brooke impatiently, "when half the world and more are in torture," reminding us of that enthusiastic social reformer who exclaimed with equal impatience and a half-comic despair :—" I am in such a desperate hurry, and the worst of it is, God is in no hurry at all! " The only subject, according to Mr. Brooke, which Tennyson treated fairly and well is that of the relation of woman to modern life, in " The Princess," On all other social subjects he thinks him behind the great movements of his time, and therefore net the poet of the people. "He is our poet in things which he treated poetica]ly, and in those which have to do with Nature and God, and the sweet honest and tender lives of men and women, he will remain our poet as long as the language lasts, but in these social matters not." Exactly ! because socialquestions, even if they lend themselves to poetical treatment, change, and assume different aspects from generation to generation. As soon as one head of the hydra is cut off, another grows, and the old one is forgotten; whereas God and Nature, and the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears of men and women, will remain much the same, as far as we can tell, till the end of time.

In all that Mr. Brooke has to say of Tennyson and his qualities, he only for a moment, as it were, casts a glance at his humour in a brief reference to "The Northern Farmer." Humour is not one of Tennyson's strongest characteristics, but still it unquestionably enters more generally into his poetry than Mr. Brooke supposes. He maintains that the only humour Tennyson had at his command was a kind of " elemental humour " belonging to the lives of brutes as well as men, " that steady quaintness of the ancient earth and all who are born of her that first made man smile," and that this is due to some remains of a rugged uncultured human nature, such as might belong to a peasant, which he seems to detect in Tennyson side by side with his educated and culti- vated charm. He quite ignores the charming and thoroughly cultivated humour of Will Waterproof's Lyrical Monologue," and indeed curiously enough never even mentions this poem among those of the early volumes. In the following lines from that poem in which Tennyson speculates about the head-waiter of the Cook,' the " elemental humour," with which alone Mr. Brooke credits him, plays no part :— " He looks not like the common breed That with the napkin dally; I think he came like Ganymede, From some delightful valley.

The cock was of a larger egg

Than modern poultry drop, Stept forward on a firmer leg, And crammed a plumper crop ; Upon an ampler dung-bill trod, Crowed lustier late and early ; Sipt wine from silver, praising God, And raked in golden barley.

A private life was all his joy, Till in a court he saw A something pottle-bodied boy, That knuckled at the taw ; He stooped and clutch'd him, fair and good, Flew over roof and casement; His brothers of the weather stood Stock-still in sheer amazement.

But he by farmstead, thorpe, and spire, And followed with acclaims, A sign to many a staring shire, Came crowing over Thames. Right down by smoky Paul's they bore, Till, where the street grows straiter, One fixed for ever at the door, And one became head-waiter."

A delicate and tender humour pervades the "Talking Oak," like a subtle atmosphere, and the same appears again in the "Day Dream," to mention two more instances, but of this Mr. Brooke makes no mention though he is full of a discerning admiration for both poems in other respects. As a writer of lovely little lyrics, those exquisite little gems of song scat- tered through his longer poems, we hardly think Mr. Brooke does Tennyson full justice. However, these are not very im- portant points, and after his strongest indictment against Tennyson—that he is not in social matters the people's poet— Mr. Brooke gives himself up to the more delightful task of showing wherein he is a true and great poet, his manner of working, his choice of subjects, and the broad, simple, uni- versal lines of thought which he chose to follow in philosophy and religion. Against the assertion that Tennyson ever wrote from any but the highest motives, he thus loyally defends him :— " I do not believe, and I cannot trace in one lino of his poetry, that he ever wrote for the sake of money, place, or to catch the popular ear, or to win a transient praise. He wrote only of that which he loved to write, that which moved him to joy or reverence, that which he thought of good report for its loveliness. Even the things he did as Poet Laureate, where, if ever, he might have been untrue to this, have no tinge of the world about them. They speak to royalties of the things of eternal beauty, of the natural sorrows and joys of faithful motherhood and wifehood, of duties and sacrifice performed in high places—the same duties and sacri- fice which might be done by the labourer and the slave—of love and honour and faith, of those ideals of humanity which are capable of being pursued and fulfilled in the cottage as in the palace. The Laureate Odes are more lessons to royal folk than celebrations of them." (p. 16.) Mr. Brooke writes perhaps with the fullest enjoyment when he is dwelling on Tennyson's love of Nature, and his wonderful accuracy of observation and power of reproducing her in all her- many moods, from the " dry-tongued laurel's pattering talk" to "the league-long roller thundering on the reef," It is in these words that Mr. Brooke finally brings himself to take leave of his subject :—" Every one who in the centuries to come shall spend therein [the world 8f Tennyson's imagina- tion] his leisure will leave it and return to his daily work consoled and cheered, more wise and more loving, less weary and heavy-laden, nearer to beauty and to righteousness, more inspired and more exalted. The permanence of the work of Tennyson is secure. Few are his failures, many his successes ; and I trust that the study of him will make men who love him love him more, and those who do not yet love him find that constant pleasure." (p. 483.) We believe that Mr. Brooke's, hopes will be largely fulfilled, though at the same time we think the book, as we said at the beginning, would have been a more valuable contribution to literature and criticism had it been considerably condensed.