The Princess: A "Medley" ?

James R. Kincaid, Aerol Arnold Professor of English, University of Southern California

Note 4 to Chapter 4 of the author's Tennyson's Major Poems, which Yale University Press published in 1975. It has been included in the Victorian Web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.

The most influential treatment of the poem, by J. H. Buckley, Tennyson: The Growth of a Poet (pp. 94-io6), develops this line fully. Early critics seized on this point as well; see, for example, the review by J. Westland Marston. He complains of the incongruous mixture of "genial satire" and "tragic emotion" (p. 7). I acknowledge that Tennyson himself sometimes echood this view. Frederick Locker-Lampson (Memoir, 2: 70 - 71) says, "He talked of The Princess with something of regret, of its fine blank verse and the many good things in it: 'but,' said he, 'though truly original, it is, after all, only a medley."' Not everyone shared this view; the poet's friend Gladstone expressed surprise that a term so inappropriate as "medley" should be used for a poem so remarkably unified; p. 456. Gladstone's opinion is supported by an unfortunately little-known but brilliant note, F. E. L. Priestley's. Priestley's brief statement on tone supports my own argument, and I am pleased to acknowledge my debt to it.

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Last modified: 28 March 2001