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decorated initial 'C'orelli's essay "Of Certain Great Poets" in The Silver Domino (1893) commences with a celebration of Tennyson, who just died, and whose genius is praised in the "Author's Note to the Second Edition".

Have we not, as it were, fallen at your feet in worship? - marked you out in our hearts and histories as the greatest poet of the Victorian Era, and taken pride in the splendour of your fame? Despise us not, noblest Singer of sweet idylls, for remember we have never despised you. In our troubles and losses we have dripped soft tears over "In Memoriam;" in our loves and hopes we have wandered among the woods and fields, singing in thought the songs of "Maud" and "The Princess"; in our dreamy moods we have pored over "The Lotus-Eaters," "The Palace of Art," "Tithonus," or "Ænone"; in our passionate moments we have felt all the scorn and burning sorrow pent up in "Locksley Hall." You are the divine melodist who has set our deep-hidden English romances and sentiment to most tenderly expressed music; we are grateful, and we have shown our gratitude. We have given you such fond hearings as few poets ever win; we have lodged you in fair domains, and guarded you as a precious jewel of the realm. What can we do more to satisfy you? Is there any grander guerdon for a poet's labour than the whole English-speaking people's honour? [228-229]

Throughout her life, Corelli considered Tennyson a friend and literary guardian. She sent him a copy of her fourth novel, Ardath, in 1890, and his reply included the comment, "You do well not to care for fame. Modern fame is too often a crown of thorns and brings all the vulgarity of the world upon you. I sometimes wish I had never written a line." (Tennyson, "To Marie Corelli") Corelli must have told Tennyson, feigning modesty, that her popularity meant nothing to her, and she would quote Tennyson's remark again and again to confirm that her mission as a writer was to exceed transitory fame. She continues her celebration of Tennyson in The Silver Domino, and compares his public acclaim to that of his literary predecessors and contemporaries.

Do no memories of the great dead bards (greater in genius than yourself, but less fortunate in their reward) sometimes flit like ghosts across the horizon of your dreams? Of Chatterton, self-slain through biting poverty; of Keats, dying before he reached his prime, while on the very verge of the promised land of Fame; of Byron, self-exiled, his splendid muse embittered by private woes; of Shelley, piteously drowned before he had time to measure his own vast intellectual forces? - while you, my good Lord, fostered by a nation's love and recognition, have experienced no such cutting cruelties at he hand of destiny. [229-230]

Recent discussion as to who shall be the next Poet Laureate, writes Corelli, are the fruits of the press, and not a reflection of the wishes of the readers and the public.

It is not the people, my Lord, the people on whom you have bestowed the life-long fruits of your genius, who are to blame for the grossly ill-judged and indelicate speculations that have lately been rife as to who shall occupy your throne and wear your crown, when you shall have resigned both for larger labours. It is the Press, with which the people have really nothing to do. [233]

In fact, Corelli suggests, the public should decide who holds the position of the Laureate. Swinburne's name comes to mind, but Corelli, routinely, condemns the poet and his sensuous poetry - although she in this piece of criticism, rather uncharacteristically, also reluctantly congratulates him on his genius.

Tennyson's muse is pure, refined, and ever persuasive to good; while at times Swinburne seems possessed of a very devil of lewdness and atheism; and lewdness and atheism are not yet openly accepted as desirable parts of a liberal education. [240]

From moral disease no moral health can come - and in spite of Swinburne's unquestioned and unquestionable genius, I believe his fame will perish as utterly and hopelessly as a brilliant torch plunged suddenly in the sea. There is no stamina in him - nothing to hold or to keep in all this meteor-like shower of words upon words, thoughts upon thoughts, similes upon similes; there lacks steadiness in the music; none of the vast eternal underthrobbings of nature give truth and shrill chanting of a man in fever and delirium; not the rich pulsing rhythm of a singer in noble accord with life, love, and labour. [242]

The outcome of Swinburne's diseased mind is, according to Corelli, poetry which steadily declines, and which will eventually be written out of literary history.

We are, perforce, thrown back on the "Poems and Ballads" and "Tristram of Lyonesse," compelled to realise that in these two books we have got all of Swinburne that we shall ever get worth reading — all the concentrated fire of that genius which is dying out day by day into dull ashes. [There is no possibility] to revive that once brilliant if lurid glow that animated Algernon's formerly reckless spirit. It is all over — the lamp is quenched, and the harp is broken. [244-245]

Related Materials

References

Corelli, Marie. "Of Certain Great Poets". The Silver Domino, or Side Whispers, Social and Literary. 12th ed. With Author's Note to this Issue. London: Lamley, 1893. 228-247.

Tennyson, Alfred. "To Marie Corelli". Autograph letter. N.d. [July 1890]. Ms. Marie Corelli Collection, The Shakespeare Centre, Public Records Office, Stratford-on-Avon. DR 777/50 f.26.


Victorian Web Marie Corelli Afred Tennyson A. C. Swinburne

Last modified 26 April 2005