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carved oaken panels, with the gilding almost rubbed out—sometimes in the spacious old-fashioned gardens, which I had almost to myself, unless when now and then a solitary gardening man would cross me—and how the nectarines and peaches hung upon the walls, without my ever offering to pluck them, because they were forbidden fruit, unless now and then, and because I had more pleasure in strolling about among the old melancholy looking yew trees, or the firs, and picking up the red berries and the fir apples, which were good for nothing but to look at; or in lying about upon the fresh grass, with all the fine garden smells around me; or basking in the orangery, till I could almost fancy myself ripening, too, along with the oranges and the limes in that grateful warmth; or in watching the dace that darted to and fro in the fishpond at the bottom of the garden, with here and there a great sulky pike hanging midway down the water in silent state, as if it mocked at their impertinent friskings.”—From Dream-Children-a Reverie.
John WILSON (b. 1785, d. 1854) was the son of a wealthy Paisley manufacturer. He was educated at Glasgow and Oxford, and settled down at Elleray, near Windermere. There he had the company of the three Lake Poets, and, indeed, wrote poetry of a Wordsworthian character himself. For this reason he has been frequently named as a Lakist. In 1815, he lost his fortune, and was obliged to leave the pleasant retirement of Elleray, and seek for employment in Edinburgh. For some time he lived by his writings, which were contributed chiefly to Blackwood's Magazine, and signed “Christopher North.” In 1820, he was appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh, and having for over thirty years performed the duties of his position with credit to himself and benefit to his students, he finally retired with a pension of £300 a year. In personal appearance he was tall and commanding, and his muscular powers were quite in keeping with his wonderful strength of mind and will.
His writings may be grouped under three headspoems, tales, and magazine articles. Of his poems, the Isle of Palms and the City of the Plague are considered the best
. They display great powers of imagination, together with a sweetness and tenderness which, as some think, Wilson has carried to excess. His Scotch tales,
such as The Trials of Margaret Lyndsay, containing many exquisite pictures of rural life and scenery, are generally sad and melancholy in character. It is to his magazine articles, therefore, that we must turn—his Recreations of Christopher North and Noctes Ambrosianae-in order fully to appreciate the real genius of the man. In these he is a boisterous, jovial giant, hearty and vigorous. Genuine humour, sparkling wit, and rare good sense and judgment are among the leading characteristics of his style.
WINTER. “ Thank heaven for winter! Would that it lasted all the year long! Spring is pretty well in its way, with budding branches and carolling birds, and wimpling burnies, and fleecy skies, and dew-like showers, softening and brightening the bosom of old mother earth. Summer is not much amiss, with umbrageous woods, glittering atmosphere, and awakening thunder storms. Nor let me libel autumn in her gorgeous bounty, and her beautiful decays. But winter, dear cold-handed, warm-hearted winter, welcome thou to my fur-clad bosom! Thine are the sharp, short, bracing, invigorating days that screw up muscle, fibre, and nerve, like the strings of an old Cremona discoursing excellent music; thine the long, snow-silent, or hail-rattling nights, with earthly fireside, and heavenly luminaries, for home comforts, or travelling imaginations, for undisturbed imprisonment, or unbounded freedom, for the affections of the heart and the flights of the soul !"—Noctes Ambrosianue.
Other Miscellaneous Writers. - Among the more conspicuous essayists were WILLIAM COBBETT, the lively author of Rural Rides; and WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR, the learned and somewhat eccentric author of Imaginary Conversations, in which he treats of almost all subjects. He also published a collection of poems and essays, entitled The Last Fruit off an Old Tree.
Prominent among scientific writers were Sir John F. W. HERSCHEL, the astronomer; and ALEXANDER WILSON, the ornithologist.
On subjects of travel, the names of BRUCE and PARK, the African travellers, are the principal.
THE POETS-FROM 1830 TILL THE PRESENT DAY.
POETS. – Tennyson - Elizabeth Barrett (Browning) - Robert
Browning-Aytoun-Hood--Other Poets. DRAMATISTS.
The period we are now entering is remarkable for great activity in all departments of literature. We cannot, it is true, boast of so many illustrious poets as those that rendered the past age so remarkable, but the poetry of Tennyson and the Brownings will ever occupy a high position in the national literature.
ALFRED TENNYSON (b. 1810), the greatest poet of our time, was born at Somersby, in Lincolnshire. His father was rector of the place, and had three sons, of whom Alfred was the youngest. At Trinity College, Cambridge, Tennyson won a medal for a poem called Timbuctoo; and about the same time, in conjunction with his brother Charles, also a poet, published Poems by Two Brothers. In 1830 appeared a volume entitled Poems, chiefly Lyrical, by Alfred Tennyson. It contained many exquisite pieces, but the public did not seem to care for it. Three years afterwards, another volume made its appearance, and it, too, though rich in poetic thought, failed to awaken public interest, and received unkindly criticism at the hands of the reviewers. For nine years thereafter, the world heard nothing of Alfred Tennyson. In 1842, however, a third effort was made to win favour, by the publication of two volumes of poems. The effort was successful, the path to fame and fortune was open before him; and to the encouragement he then received we are largely indebted for the splendid poems which have since proceeded from his pen. On the death of Wordsworth, he was appointed Poet Laureate.
His life has been quiet, and, so far as is known, uneventful. In character he is modest and unassuming, and shrinks from publicity.
The despised poems of the volume published in 1833 have since become the idols of the public—witness the Miller's Daughter and the May Queen; and there are verses in the volumes of 1842, notably those of Locksley Hall, which rank as high as anything he has ever written. His longer poems are, in the order of publication, the Princess, In Memoriam, Maud, Idylls of the King, Enoch Arden, The Holy Grail, and Gareth and Lynette.
The Princess: a Medley, is a fanciful story, told in blank verse. Ida, the beautiful daughter of King Gama, monarch of the South, is, while yet a child, betrothed to a prince of the North. The time for marriage arrives; but the Princess Ida thinks that women were made for something better than marriage; founds a university, where all the professors and students are of the female sex; and, of course, refuses to wed. The Prince, who has seen only the portrait of his betrothed, is enamoured of her beauty, and determines to win her. With this object he sets out for the university, accompanied by two friends, Cyril and Florian, all three disguised as females. They manage to get enrolled as students, and the Prince, on beholding the Head," or Principal, is more enraptured than ever. All goes well, till, at a picnic, Cyril forgets his disguise, and sings a drinking song. Ida, burning with indignation at the deception which has been practised upon her, turns to leave; her foot slips, and she falls into the river. The Prince saves her; but instead of feeling grateful, she calls a council, and the Prince, with his companions, is turned out of doors. Next there is war between the North and the South; the Prince is wounded in battle. Ida turns her college into an hospital, and the ladies become the nurses of those who are suffering. The Princess undertakes the charge of the Prince, whom she could not bring herself to leave lying helpless on the battlefield. She thinks him dying; becomes tender and loving at
last; and, when the Prince recovers consciousness, he discovers in Ida a kind, warm-hearted woman, in place of the haughty principal of a university for women.
In Memoriam is a collection of elegies written in stanzas of four eight-syllabled lines, the rhymes occurring in the first and fourth lines, and in the second and third. As early as 1833, Tennyson had lost his dearest friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, son of the historian, who was to have been married to the sister of the poet.
The elegies did not appear till 1850, showing how he had taken to heart the death of the man he had loved, and how long he had mourned his loss. Many portions of In Memoriam seem, at first sight, obscure, and difficult to understand; but when one has lost a dearly loved friend by death, he will have little difficulty in finding a key with which to open a way to the stores of sympathy and comfort which this beautiful poem contains.
Maud is a strange story, written in irregular rhyming stanzas. It tells us of a lover who is passionately attached to Maud, a squire's daughter, who returns his love, but without the knowledge or consent of her friends. One evening he is serenading his beloved, in her garden of roses, when her brother discovers and insults him. They fight a duel, in which Maud's brother is killed. She turns from her lover in horror, and will have no more of him. He then flees to France, but returns to London, his heart haunted by visions of Maud; and there he falls into a stupor, and dreams that he is dead, and buried beneath the streets; that the wheels of passing vehicles shake his bones; that the trampling of the horses' hoofs beat into his brain; and that the clatter of passing feet disturbs and annoys him. He prays that “some body, some kind heart, will come and bury him a little deeper.” At last, however, he awakes, and, joining the army which is about to depart for the seat of the Russian war, forgets in the excitement of battle the wound which his love had received.
The Idylls of the King, the Holy Grail, and Gareth and Lynette all belong to the same series. They are