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repelled by its calm seriousness, have characterized it as a series of lamentations, scarcely manly, chanted monotonously by a tomb. Others, who have studied it more deeply, and who know in some measure what are the solemn anxieties, the often-baffled strivings, the vain endeavours to reach the heart of a great mystery, which it records, discern more truly in this work the greatest religious poem—but for one serious defect,—to which Christianity has given birth ; the struggles of scepticism, and the victory of faith.
Mr. Tennyson was appointed Poet Laureate on the death of Wordsworth, in the same year in which · In Memoriam'appeared. He stipulated, I believe, that he should not be required to produce birth-day odes and manufactures of that sort. It was more as Englishman than as Laureate that he wrote the noble ' Dedication to the Queen' of his collected poems, and his magnificent Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington.' An ode which he is understood to have in land for the opening of the Exhibition this year will scarcely to an equal extent call forth his powers.
‘Maud and other Poems' came out in 1855. As a work of art, the story of Maud, narrated in successive short poems of varying measure, is surely equal to anything that Mr. Tennyson ever wrote. On the subject, I may venture a remark or two in the next paper. The critics were in general very harsh with this production ; but all, after a time, were ready to do justice to the wonderful skill with which the tale was wrought out, to the brilliant play of fancy and passion all through, and to the mingled grace, delicacy, and fire of the language. Among the shorter pieces that follow, the idyll of The Brook,' in expression and in music, is absolutely perfect. The song which forms the refrain of the poem is one of the best known of all the poet's writings. We all have its melody by heart; it sings itself
*And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river;
But I go on for ever.' If any, however, on the whole were disappointed with ‘Maud,' they soon received ample amends in the 'Idylls of the King,' published in 1859. This work, as everyone knows, consists of four stories, told in blank verse of most wonderful and varied music, concerning four fair ladies of King Arthur's court; the gentle, faithful Enid; the wily, lissom, wicked Vivian; the pure, loving, heart-broken Elaine ; and the deeply sinning, deeply repentant Guinevere. Sometimes it has been asked, why the poet of our own age, so truly cognizant of its needs, and so deeply sympathetic with its spirit, should thus have carried us back to halffabulous ages, and to scenes so unlike those in which we live,
The answer may not be easy. The poet's soul prescribes its own law. Besides which—to take the simply ethical view—I am not sure but that great lessons, intended for every age, may be pondered more impartially and effectually when clothed in an alien or antique costume. To have depicted the modern types of Edin and Geraint, of Merlin and Vivian, of Lancelot and Elaine, of Lancelot and Guinevere, would have infringed many wholesome conventions, and must have degraded the poem into a satire. As it is, the tone is pure and unembarrased, while the thoughts and emotions which indicate the poem are those of the universal human heart. On the whole, then, I am inclined to accept these Idylls not only for their pictures of the heroic age of Britain, but on account of their human interest, and for the teaching which they contain for us all. If rumour be true, the poet is now engaged upon the grand sad story of Boadicea.
As to the personal life of Mr. Tennyson, there is little to say, even were not such details slightly impertinent. Perhaps there is no living author of whom fewer anecdotes are floating about in society. His younger years were spent in Lincolnshire, in the fen scenery; and we all know how, in his early poems, he made these very fens poetical—or, rather, saw the poetry that was in them :
One willow over the river wept,
Shot over with purple, and green, and yellow.'
At Farringford, in the Isle of Wight,' writes a modern critic,* on the road from Alum Bay to Carisbrook, he has resided for many years, amid green undulating woodland, thick with apple trees, and fringed with silver sand and snowy rocks, on which the light green summer sea, and the black waves of winter flow with the changeful music of
The landscape of southern England, where green and daisied downs take the place of the grey wolds to which his young eyes were accustomed, is often painted in his later works. Within his quiet home by the sea, the stalwart, dark-bearded poet lives among his children and his books, strolling often, no doubt, beyond the privet-hedge that bounds his lawn and garden, but seeing little society, except that of a few chosen friends.
* Dr. Collier. “History of English Literature, a little book lately published by Nelsons, and admirably suited to educational purposes. VOL. III.-NEW SERIES.
In the autumn of 1854,'our Dorcas' came into existence. A few matronly members of the church considered that there ought to be such an institution, and after sundry visitings among themselves, and many consultations, it was announced that a meeting of the ladies of the church and congregation would be held, for the purpose of gaining some additional light on the subject. After a little desultory conversation, a list of annual subscribers was opened, and a few ladies were selected to make inquiries of the members of other societies as to their various methods of working —these to be discussed at the next meeting, which was to be held that day fortnight.
During this interval, our Dorcas' was the topic of conversation among the feminine portion of the community; and so diverse were their wishes and opinions, that it seemed as if it would be impossible to invent a Dorcas that would satisfy them all. The two principal subjects of debate were-whether the meetings for work should be held in the schoolroom adjoining the chapel, or at the houses of some of the ladies; and, whether the articles of clothing
should be given to the poor, or sold either at half or cost price. These points were with great difficulty settled. At the second meeting, a committee of twelve of our most energetic members was formed; some rules for the regulation of our society were drawn up; different departments of the work, such as purchasing materials, cutting out,' &c., allotted to those who were likely to prove most efficient helpers; and the society itself received its name—the
Chapel Dorcas and Infants' Friend Society.' • Our Dorcas ’ was fairly started now!
The next step was to have printed two or three hundred circulars, with the names of the committee and the rules, &c., these to be distributed among the congregation. We subjoin a few of the rules as the best way of showing how we intended to proceed.
II. That the affairs of this society be under the direction of a president, treasurer, secretary, and a committee of ladies; five to form a quorum.
' III. That the friends of this society, subscribers and non-subscribers, meet in the schoolroom on the first Tuesday in each month, at three o'clock, to prepare clothing; the committee to assemble at four, to arrange any business connected with the society. Tea will be provided at five, at a charge of fourpence. The meeting to close at seven o'clock.
*IV. That each subscriber receive clothing to the amount of half
her subscription only; the other half to be devoted to a fund for relieving cases of distress in immediate connection with the chapel, Sunday-schools, or neighbourhood, and for covering all expenses incurred by the society in carrying out its plans.
'X. That the clothing of this society be given to the poor. That articles of all kinds, as far as practicable, be made by the ladies.
That blankets, shawls, &c., be supplied when the committee deem it advisable.'
It will thus be seen that they who wished the clothing to be given to the poor, and the working parties to be held in the schoolroom, gained the day. The first point occasioned much discussion.
• The poor will doubly value what they help to pay for, though the price be ever so nominal ; to give is only to encourage them in idleness, in living on others. If you make them pay a little it will teach them to save up
and they will take more care of the clothes when they have cost them something; urged one side. • But it is the business of other societies to do all that,' said others ; 'there are clothing clubs, &c., for that especial purpose. We want to help the very poor—those whose few pence must go to buy food for the children, and who, if they had to pay ever so little for the clothes, could not afford even that. We must visit our “cases,” so as to give to the deserving only; but what garments a Dorcas supplies should be given. And as the majority were of this opinion, it was so decided; the minority giving way, though many of them remain unconvinced that this is the better plan.
The other point-the place of meeting was more easily settled; at the time it had been rather warmly discussed. How much more cosy,' said one lady, to have the working parties at our own houses. I will willingly provide tea one time in twelve for all who can come to work ; surely among us there are eleven others who can do the same. No doubt there were; and what a comfortable way—how much more sociable, and friendly,' were the arguments most freely used. «« Sociable and friendly” for those with whom we are intimate, but those whose help we need most would probably keep away, replied the opposite party. The dressmakers, the less wealthy members who are well versed in all the mysteries of needlework, are far more likely to come to a place where they feel they have a right to be than to the houses of people of whom they know little. In the schoolroom they may all feel at home, and can come and go as they please ; if we meet in the houses of a few, it may degenerate into a party” affair—a clique ; may give rise to jealousies and much ill-feeling; whereas, in the schoolroom, all may meet as equals, and feel thoroughly independenti These opinions triumphed, and we believe no one has ever regretted it.
Certainly the most energetically expressed argument we ever heard in favour of the meetings being held at various houses, was one that we thought condemned that plan more than anything ever said against it. It was uttered by a lady unconnected with our society, and spoken in tones of mingled self-complacency and pity. We have our Dorcases at the houses, and you can't think how popular some of our ladies make it, especially to the young people. We meet at three o'clock, as you do, and at seven the work is cleared away, and, of course, those who are not asked to stop, go. Presently, the gentlemen who have been invited come in, and the workers who belong to “our set" remain too, they having come dressed for a party, and we have music and suppermake quite an evening party of it. Very pleasant, doubtless, for the young ladies who belonged to her set '—not so pleasant to the feelings of those who put by their work and trudged home. Evening parties are nice enough things—very desirable in their proper place--but they have no connection with Dorcas societies, and are better kept apart. If young ladies need to be bribed into giving up a few hours to work for the poor by the prospect of music and supper afterwards, we are almost ready to say, they had better leave the work for others to do.
After the twelve rules, our circular contained a list of the articles or clothing supplied, with the price (for subscribers) affixed to each. The sum charged was only the cost price of the material ; so that when the half of their subscription would not procure all the garments anyone wished to give away, they might be bad on those terms. That fourth rule, which allowed subscribers to distribute clothing of the value of only half their subscriptions, perplexed many at first, though a little explanation showed its reasonableness. Take Mrs. A., who lives two miles from the chapel, never helps us by her needlework, but subscribes a guinea a-year, as an example. If she were to receive from the Dorcas a guinea's worth of clothing (at our prices) she would not only have material to the full valne of her money, but all the labour of making it up, for nothing; whilst the poor on whom she would probably bestow the clothes would be those living near her, who, of course, were not likely to attend our place of worship, or be known to any member but herself.
The articles principally made up were women's and children's under clothing, and flannel shirts for working men; all these, when once cut out, were tolerably easy to put together; but sometimes a few, more clever with their needles than the generality, made up cotton and stuff frocks, capes, and jackets. Even the list was put to some use. A Quaker lady set the example of forming it into hoods, capes, children's stays, and baby socks-some was snipped up' by juvenile fingers, to fill a bed for a child's cot; we wished to waste nothing