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III.—Some Phases of Tennyson's in Memoriam

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 December 2020

Henry E. Shepherd*
College of Charleston


The trend of the Modern Language Association has been, thus far, almost exclusively in the direction of grammatical criticism and philological exegesis. The literary side of language has been subordinated or retired until it is almost faded out of memory, in the confusion of tongues and the strife of phonetics. Nearly all of the illustrating power, the æsthetic brilliance of literary culture, is lost upon the philological devotee. As an attempt to counteract this tendency, I purpose a special investigation of some points suggested by the study of one of the noblest works through which the spiritual genius and the artistic sense of our age has expressed itself—I mean Tennyson's “In Memoriam.” As is well known to students of our literature, “In Memoriam “appeared in 1850, the year of Wordsworth's death and of Tennyson's succession to the office of Laureate. It is one of the five or six supreme elegiac poems of our language, “Lycidas “standing first in point of time (1637), then Dryden's “Ode on Mrs. Killigrew” (1686), then Shelley's “Adonais “(1822), suggested by the death of Keats and “In Memoriam “which was occasioned by the death of Arthur Hallam at Vienna in September, 1833—in 1850. Matthew Arnold's “Thyrsis,” evoked by the death of his friend Arthur Hugh Clough, in point of grace and tenderness is entitled to most honorable recognition, but as it is subsequent by several years to the appearance of “In Memoriam,”

Research Article
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 1891

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1 See Pattison's “Sketch of Milton “in Ward's ‘English Poets’; Pattison's “Life of Milton” in Morley's ‘English Men of Letters Series’ or Masson's ‘Life and Times of John Milton’

2 The reader can verify this statement by reference to Ben Jonson's “Underwood “or to Lord Herbert of Cherbury, cited in Ward's ‘English Poets.’

3 The “In Memoriam “stanza (not fully developed) is used in one of Spenser's Elegies upon Sir Philip Sidney.

4 Note also a similar use of the pronoun in “A Legend of the Navy”: “He that only rules by terror, Doeth grievous wrong.”

5 Aeonian was used by Abram Tucker in 1765.

6 Much has been written in regard to Arthur Hallam's rare genius and wonderful promise. Among the various sketches, I prefer that of Sir Francis Doyle, in his ‘Reminiscences.” It is he who calls him “the young Marcellus of our poetry,” The Literary Remains of Hallam were printed by his father, the historian, for circulation among his friends. The book is well worthy of diligent study.