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The only historical event of this age that has affected the literature of England is the Crimean war.
The authors will be divided into two classes :
I. The Poets, represented by Tennyson, Mrs. Browning, Robert Browning, Jean Ingelow, Swinburne, William Morris, and Matthew Arnold.
II. THE PROSE WRITERS, represented by Macaulay, Grote; Froude, Dickens, Thackeray, Lord Lytton, George Eliot, Sir William Hamilton, Darwin, Carlyle, and Ruskin.
I. POETS OF THE VICTORIAN AGE.
TENNYSON. 1810–1892. The truest representative and completest embodiment of the poetic genius of the Victorian age is Alfred Tennyson, Poet-Laureate of England. Its fine culture; its analyzing, inquiring, doubting spirit; its subtlety of thought and daintiness of phrase,—are all shown in their highest perfection in the works of this great poet. He was born in 1810, educated at Cambridge, and resided for many years at Aldworth, in Sussex, with a summer residence at Farringford, on the Isle of Wight. He was a man of refined tastes, wide culture, profound thought, and studious and retired habits. In 1884 he was raised to the peerage, as Baron D'Eynecourt, Lord Tennyson, by which title he has since been known.
The following are among his finest poems: The May Queen, Locksley Hall, the Princess, In Memoriam, The Talking Oak, Maud, Enoch Arden, and Idyls of the King.
Of those named, probably the greatest are In Memoriam and The Idyls of the King. The former is a lament for the untimely death of his bosom-friend, Arthur Hallam, son of the historian; the latter is a sort of metrical romance, celebrating the lives and adventures of the mythical King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.* The Princess also is a great poem. It is a
See Bulfinch's " Age of Chivalry," where the romances of Arthur are given in detail.
poetical discussion of the nature of woman, and her relation o man and to society; and it serves as a setting for a number of exquisite songs, such as Sweet and Low, The Bugle Song, etc l'ennyson has published two dramas—Queen Mary and Harolik They are interesting historical studies, but not great dramas; and thay add nothing to the author's fame.
His death, which occurred at Aldworth, Oct. 6, 1892, was marked by a solemn grandeur in keeping with the loftiness of the great sou) that was then “ Crossing the Bar." *
I hold it true, whate'er befall,
I feel it when I sorrow most,
'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all.
In Memoriam, 27.
'T is only noble to be good;
Lady Clara Vere de Vero.
To put in words the grief I feel,
For words, like nature, half reveal
In Memoriam, 5.
Forever and ever by;
Whatever they call him, what care 1 ?-
Who can rule, and dare not lie. Maud, X., 5.
* See his last poem, “Crossing the Bar," page 162.
MRS. BROWNING. 1809-1861. In the opinion of a very competent critic,* Elizabeth Barrett Browning was not only “the greatest female poet that England has produced, but more than this, the most inspired woman, so far as known, of all who have composed in ancient or modern tongues, or flourished in any land or clime.” Elizabeth Barrett was born in 1809, received a fine classical education, married the poet Robt. Browning, and died in Italy in 1861. She was a woman of delicate health, much of the time an invalid,
,-a fact that must be borne in mind in estimating her genius. Had her physical strength been equal to her mental, she might have equalled, if not surpassed, the Poet-Laureate himself.
Her greatest poem is Aurora Leigh. Among the best of her other poems are—Lady Geraldine's Courtship, Casa Guidi Windows, Bertha in the Lane, Cowper's Grave, The Cry of the Human, The Cry of the Children, A Child Asleep, He Giveth His Beloved Sleep, and her Sonnets.
A happy life means prudent compromise.
It takes a soul
Along the Psalmist's music deep,
“He giveth His beloved sleep."
* Edmund Clarence Stedman (“Victorian Poets,” p. 115).
ROBERT BROWNING. 1812–1889. Robert Browning, husband of Mrs. E. B. Browning, is by many regarded as one of the greatest poets of the age. Most of his works are dramatic, his finest dramas being Pippa Passes, A Blot on the Scutcheon, and Colombe's Birthday. Of his other works, The Ring and the Book is the longest, and it is also one of the greatest, both in its faults and its merits. All his works exhibit great power, but the style of most of them is so elliptical and obscure as to baffle and repel ordinary readers. His only popular poems are his shorter ones, most of which are among the very best of their class. Among these are—Evelyn Hope, Ratisbon, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, My Lost Duchess, and Herve Riel.
Mr. Browning never catered to popular taste, but by patient effort and loyalty to his own ideals of his art, he gradually rose in public estimation until he ranked, in the minds of many thoughtful readers, scarcely if any inferior to his great contemporary, Lord Tennyson. He died at Venice, December 15, 1889.
till a farm appears,
JEAN INGELOW. 1820-1897. Jean Ingelow, on the death of Mrs. Browning, became “by divine right” the queen of English song. She is a true lyric poet. Her poems are the spontaneous, soulful utterances of one who, birdlike, sings because she “cannot choose but sing." Among her most beautiful poems are—Songs of Seven, The Letter L., Songs of the Night Watches, Songs with Preludes, Songs on the Voices of Birds, and High Tide on the coast of Lincolnshire. She has also written Of the Skelligs, and one or two other novels; and several volumes of stories for children, of which Mopsa the Fairy is the best. All her works have an immense sale, both in England and America. Miss Ingelow died July 20, 1897.
Fair yellow-daffodils stately and tall!
And fresh hearts unconscious of sorrow and thrall !
God that is over us all!
Seven Times Four. Maternity.
Algernon Charles Swinburne is the most distinguished of the younger English poets. One of his chief merits is his absolute mastery of all the resources of the English language, both as to vocabulary and rhythm. His chief defects are mysticism or obscurity of style, and sensuousness of tone amounting in his earlier poems (Laus Veneris, for example) to sensuality.
His principal works are-Atalanta in Calydon, Chastelard, A Song of Italy, Bothwell, and The Tale of Balen.
Sea, that art clothed with the sun and the rain,
Thy large embraces are keen like pain!
Find me one grave of thy thousand graves,
Atalanta in Calydon.