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778

III. POEMS PUBLISHED IN THE EDI-

TION OF 1830, AND OMITTED IN

LATER EDITIONS.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

ALFRED TENNYSON, the fourth of eight brothers (there were also four sisters), was born on the 6th of August, 1809, at Somersby, a village in Lincolnshire containing at that time less than a hundred inhabitants. His father, Rev. George Clayton Tennyson, LL.D., was the rector of the parish, “a man of energetic character, remarkable for his great strength and stature, and of very various talents, — something of a poet, painter, architect, and musician, and also a considerable linguist and mathematician.' Mrs. Tennyson, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Fytche, was the daughter of a clergyman, and is described as "a sweet and gentle and most imaginative woman; so kind-hearted that it had passed into a proverb, and the wicked inhabitants of a neighboring village used to bring their dogs to her windows and beat them in order to be bribed to leave off by the gentle lady, or to make advantageous bargains by selling her the worthless curs.'1

In those days Somersby was quite out of the world, -- so much so that the news of the battle of Waterloo did not reach it at the time, – but the Tennyson children had a world of their own with its mimic history and romance. The boys,” says Mrs. Ritchie, 'played great games, like Arthur's knights; they were champions and warriors defending a stone heap; or, again, they would set up opposing camps with a king in the midst of each. The king was a willow wand stuck into the ground, with an outer circle of immortals to defend him of firmer, stiffer sticks. Then each party would come with stones, hurling at each other's king, and trying to overthrow him. Perhaps as the day wore on they became romancers, leaving the jousts deserted. When dinner-time came, and they all sat round the table, each in turn put a chapter of his history underneath the potato-bowl, - long endless bistories, chapter after chapter, diffuse, absorbing, unending, as are the stories of real life of which each sunrise opens on a new part. Some of these romances were in letters, like Clarissa Harlowe.” Alfred used to tell a story which lasted for months, and which was called “The Old Horse."

Earlier even than this the boy had begun to • Jisp in numbers. When he was only five years old, be exclaimed as the wind swept through the rectory garden, “I hear a voice that's speaking in the wind. Mrs. Ritchie tells how, not long afterwards, he first put his baby poetry into writing. • Alfred's first verses were written upon a slate which his brother Charles put into his hand one Sunday at Louth, when all the elders of the party were going into church, and the child was left alone. Charles gave him a subject, - the flowers in the garden, - and when he came back from church, little Alfred brought the slate to his brother, all covered with written lines of blank verse. They were made on the model of Thomson's “ Seasons,” the only poetry he had ever read. One can picture it all to one's self, the flowers in the garden, the verses, the little poet with waiting eyes, and the young brother scanning the lines. “Yes, you can write,” said Charles, and he gave Alfred back the slate. I have also heard another story, of his grandfather, later on,

1 Mrs. Anne Thackeray Ritchie, in Records of Tennyson, Ruskin, Browning (New York, 1892). to which we are indebted for some interesting particulars of the poet's early life.

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