Preface to 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.
This web version is a project supported by the University Scholars Programme of the National University of Singapore. Scanning, basic HTML conversion, and proofreading were carried out by Gerhard Rolletschek, a Postgraduate Visiting Scholar from the University of Munich, working under the direction of George P. Landow.
he pleasures of writing — certainly of reading — prefaces seem to have deteriorated considerably from what they once were. Now one is obliged to dish out honeyed thanks to an indifferent family, to suggest without apparent irony that one's colleagues compose themselves into an academy of selfless readers-of-each-others'-stuff, to offer lavish appreciation to whoever it is holds the copyrights for ELN or some such, and to praise one's dean-all to keep a job and avoid a lawsuit. But once it was possible to exercise valuable hostilities in such places; witness Byron: "What Mr. Southey's deserts are, no one knows better than Mr. Southey: all his latter writings have displayed the writhing of a weakly human creature, conscious of owing its worldly elevation to its own debasement (like a man who has made a fortune by the Slave-trade, or the retired keeper of a Gaming house or Brothel), and struggling convulsively. . . ." One wonders what Byron would have to say about the benefits to scholarship presented by spouses and children, the Board of Regents who own the copyrights, one's dean?
In this spirit, then, I should like to thank the many people who have helped me in various ways with this project. My colleagues John Muste, Christian Zacher, and Richard Martin all ripped their way through long sections of the work, offering valuable comments of all sorts and tones and many suggestions I eagerly adopted. Gerald Bruns usefully mixed an attitude of stunned piety toward Tennyson with one of bemused tolerance toward me, telling me more about Tennyson's poetry than I could ever have learned elsewhere. Joan Webber provided not only direct criticisms of the material but a liberal and free participation in the patterns of thought I was trying to form. Richard D. Altick worked his way through nearly every sentence with great charity for me and none at all for the argument. My rapidly compounding debt to him in matters large and small is embarrassing to think about but gratefully acknowledged all the same. Each of these readers has in one way or another made it clear that he was in fact dissociated from the argument, and it only seems fair to let them all range free [ix/x] from errors and distortions in the work. My wife, who many times read all this and Tennyson too, encouraged not only the writing of a book but supported this book, this thesis, and therefore really deserves no dissociation. If I could say that she is responsible for all errors, et cetera, without appearing craven, I would. This book is dedicated to the man who taught me Tennyson and, along the way, provided me with a firm image of what a wholehearted and generous immersion in teaching and scholarship could, at its very best, provide.
I should also like to thank the National Endowment for the Humanities for the Younger Humanist Fellowship which gave me the time and money to do the work. I owe a special thanks to the people at the Tennyson Research Centre in Lincoln, especially Mrs. Nancy Campbell, for their great kindness to me while I was there and also for permission to refer to and quote from materials in their collection. Dr. J. M. Gray gave me during this period the benefits of his remarkable knowledge of Tennyson, Arthurian materials, and public houses in Lincoln, as well as his friendship. The Ohio State University College of Humanities provided free time and also a grant-in-aid to help this project along in every sense. Earlier versions of a part of chapter 4 and the section on "Gareth and Lynette" in chapter 8 were previously published in Philological Quarterly (Spring 1974) and Texas Studies in Literature and Language (Winter 1972), respectively. They are included here with the kind permission of The University of Iowa and The University of Texas Press.
Last modified 28 March 2001