Between Wordsworth's The Prelude and Pater's conclusion (text) to The Renaissance, attitudes toward the self and how it should be presented in literature changed radically. Wordsworth, at the beginning of his autobiographical poem, is lifted by the "gentle breeze" of inspiration to one of the imagination's lookout points, from which he sees spread out before him both life and poem as a single path from past to present. "With a heart/Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty," he cries out "I cannot miss my way" (1.14-15, 18). Pater concludes his Renaissance on a note of subdued sadness, apologizing for the impressions which he has substituted for biography:

To such a tremulous wisp constantly reforming itself on the stream, to a single sharp impression, with a sense in it, a relic more or less fleeting, of such moments gone by, what is real in our life fines itself down. It is with this movement, with the passage and dissolution of impressions, images, sensations, that analysis leaves off—that continual vanishing away, that strange, perpetual weaving and unweaving of ourselves. [236]

For Pater, the road connecting past and present is no longer an appropriate image for the self. One's life is not a stream but "a tremulous wisp constantly reforming itself on the stream." The self has no continuous existence in time which memory can retrieve, and so cannot define itself through chronological narrative. Representative experience may evoke memories of similar situations or responses ("a single sharp impression, with a sense in it ... of such moments gone by"), but to extend this atemporal sense of recognition into a consistent progressive sequence is to construct a fiction which is psychologically false and philosophically impossible. Autobiographers earlier in the century, like Tennyson's "Ulysses" (text) "cannot rest from travel." They share his "gray spirit yearning in desire/To follow knowledge"—self-knowledge, the end of the quest which is a shaping metaphor of life itself and of the autobiography which narrates it. Tennyson's Ulysses is already strangely slow to depart. Pater gives up the voyage entirely, turning from Ulysses' mode of self-exploration to Penelope's, "that strange, perpetual weaving and unweaving of ourselves." In 1868 and 1873, when Pater's "Conclusion" was published, his Penelope was condemned for seducing young men from the Ulyssean quest. Twenty years later in 1888 when Pater reprinted the suppressed "Conclusion," an increasing number of Victorian Ulysses were dead or permanently shipwrecked. The time of the Penelopean autobiographer was at hand. Ruskin began the last volume of Praeterita in the same year. Proust, who was to translate him before beginning to remember his own past, had just turned seventeen. Joyce was a (nicens) little boy meeting a moocow coming down along the road.

The prose autobiographies of the high Victorian period, with the exception of Ruskin's Praeterita, show few radical departures from a tradition which reaches from Wordsworth back to St. Augustine. The major Victorian poets, however, expressed in the 1850s their discontent with Wordsworth's sublime egotism, and experimented with poetic structures which would allow them to explore a different concept of selfhood. These poetic alternatives to spiritual or crisis autobiography prepare the way for Pater's Penelope.

I

Tennyson, Arnold, Browning, or Ruskin were all uncomfortable with sustained self-reflection as a subject for their writing. Their common judgment of introspection, especially in public, was that it was "morbid," unhealthy both for the poet and for his readers. Arnold puts it succinctly:

"the dialogue of the mind with itself is a characteristic subject of modern poetry, and too often it creates a situation in which the suffering finds no vent in action; in which a continuous state of mental distress is prolonged, unrelieved by incident, hope, or resistance. ... In such situations there is inevitably something morbid, in the description of them something monotonous. When they occur in actual life, they are painful, not tragic; the representation of them in poetry is painful also. [Poetical Works xviii (1853 Preface)]

Ruskin called modern poetry the poetry of pathetic fallacy: a poetry of feeling in which the poet's concern with himself colors all his perceptions. "The temperament which admits the pathetic fallacy" he judged "weak," and its perceptions not only "inaccurate" but "morbid."3 Tennyson spoke out against "all those morbid and introspective" modern tales, and once advised a young man to "develop his true self ... by casting aside all maudlin and introspective morbidities" (Memoir II, 372 and I, 317). John Stuart Mill after reading the young Browning's "Pauline," wrote that 'the writer seems to me possessed with a more intense and morbid self-consciousness than I ever knew in any one human being."5 Browning never forgot Mill's acerbic comment on his first long poem.

There are several possible reasons for the Victorians' dislike of direct exploration or exhibition of the self in literature. In the first place, they find introspection fruitless; it does not lead to a visionary knowledge of self and world, the prelude to action which autobiographers from Augustine to Wordsworth promised (1853 Preface, xxix). The isolated quest for private identity is, in the Victorian experience, almost always a failure. Empedocles' "dialogue of the mind with itself leads him to despair and death; Childe Roland's quest gives him at most a final revelation of the futility of his questing life. The Victorians know what Wordsworth never quite admitted: that self-discovery has become not the prelude to an active life but an inadequate substitute for it.

Arnold is spokesman for those who see these failures as a Phenomenon peculiar to their times, to "an age wanting in moral grandeur," "an age of spiritual discomfort" (Preface, xxix). Ruskin also associates the poetry of pathetic fallacy with what he calls the "cloudy" modern temper, a quality of mind distinguished by its preference for vagueness, darkness, and change (5.317,322). Poets like Dante whose perceptions were not affected by strong personal feeling saw more clearly than modern poets—they "saw life steadily and saw it whole," in Arnold's phrase. Ruskin concludes that they saw by the light of faith, which the moderns do not have. But there is something strange in these explanations. Both Arnold and Ruskin include the romantics together with themselves in their condemnation of the age. When they talk about the handicap of belonging to the modern age or temper, they do not simply mean the difficulty of being last romantics in a time of material prosperity. That is our analysis of their failure to follow romantic example. Both men did aspire to imaginative quests for identity through poetry, but they found the experience painful and fruitless. Their explanation is that solitary questing is itself a symptom of the moral atmosphere of the times. The best poets, Arnold declares, "do not talk of their mission, nor of interpreting their age, nor of the coming Poet; all this, they know, is the mere delirium of vanity" (xxix). Arnold's last phrase is telling. The strongest reason for, the Victorian objection to self-revealing literature seems to be not that it fails to lead to identity and action, but that it is "the mere delirium of vanity," an act of selfish pride. Their objection is profoundly moral. It is an attitude which can be found throughout the literature of the period. Tennyson's Princess, for example, is a blatant egoist. "On me, me, me, the storm first breaks," she cries: "/dare/ All these male thunderbolts" (IV.478-79). Her precipitate fall is not just Tennyson's condemnation of her masculinity; it is a punishment for the moral sin of pride. In fact, Victorian critics and poets were right when they said that the quest for identity was usually painful and fruitless; their conviction that it was ethically wrong insured that they would find such selfhood a burden, and turn aside from internal quests.

The injunction to forget oneself to find oneself is, of course, a commonplace of Christian and romantic tradition, but the Victorians took it further. Christians must remember God, and God, according to Augustine, will "recollect" the Christian, giving him a sense of himself he will only discover in the experience of conversion. The romantic poet seeks self-forgetfulness in imaginative experience, which will, in turn, offer the poet an'identity. For many Victorians, such pursuits remained too self-involved, especially when they became subjects for literature. The way out was a deliberate shift in focus from the self to mutuality: friendship and marriage, or to community: the writer's concern lor his audience and the reformer's vision of society.9 At the very least, the escape from self-involvement led the writer to complain of isolation, to criticize his romantic predecessors, and to subvert the forms of introspective literature, even when he continued to practice them.

Tennyson's In Memoriam is the clearest and earliest example of an autobiographical poem which opposes the internal quest for identity. For Tennyson, an identity independent of other people and even of achievements other than the act of self-discovery is an isolating identity. It is the child's painful sense of self to which his loss of Hallam threatened to return him.

The baby new to earth and sky,
What time his tender palm is prest
Against the circle of the breast,
Has never thought that "this is I;"

But as he grows he gathers much,
And learns the use of "I" and "me,"
And finds "1 am not what I see,
And other than the things I touch."

So rounds he to a separate mind
From whence clear memory may begin,
-As thro' the frame that binds him in
His isolation grows defined. (Section 45)

At the deepest point of his despair at Hallam's death, Tennyson is further reduced to the baby's helpless inability to say that "this is I";

. . . but what am I?
An infant crying in the night;
An infant crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry. (Section 54)

The loss of Hallam is the loss of the sense of himself which their friendship had given Tennyson—a mature sense of self which had replaced the baby's fears of nonexistence and the child's isolating identity. The most frightening consequence of the death is not Tennyson's loss of faith in a fatherly God and a benign Nature, but his sense of a dissolving self, the return of what he sees as the infant's terror that he and the rest of his world will cease to exist when the lights go out. The infant's cry in the night is Tennyson's cry to Hallam in the great Section 50: "Be near me when my light is low. . . . Be near me when I fade away". Without Hallam, Tennyson must, like the infant, begin again the isolating process of self-discovery. To learn that "I am not what I see,/And other than the things I touch" will protect him from the infant's night fears, but at the price of erecting a "frame that binds him in" and secures his isolation.

In Memoriam makes clear, however, that Tennyson has no de»ire to seize the occasion of Hallam's death to forge an independent identity for himself. The resolution of his poem is his recovery of Hallam's companionship: "A friendship as had master'd Time:/Which masters Time indeed, and is/ Eternal, separate from fears" (Section 85). The closing lyrics assert again and again that Tennyson has not recovered from Hallam's death; he has recovered Hallam himself: "Mine, mine, for ever, ever mine" (Section 129); I shall not lose thee tho' I die" (Section 130). Hallam's friendship provided Tennyson with an alternative to the burdensome identity of isolation: identity through mutuality The epithalamion which concludes the poem is Tennyson's praise of mutuality in its most firmly recognized social form: the institution of marriage. His conviction that a lasting and more satisfying identity can be achieved through a turning outward of the self in love is expressed throughout his poetry: it lies behind his early dramatizations of futile introspection ("The Two Voices," "The Supposed Confession of a Second-Rate Sensitive Mind") and his brilliant portrait of an isolated mind in "Maud." The Idylls envision an entire social order created through a communal sense of identity—and dependent on the commitment to mutuality of a representative marriage.

Browning maintained that he had always intended to write dramatic rather than 'introspective poetry.10 After "Pauline" he made certain that his monologues did not suggest their author's public exploration of his own identity. But Browning had once been attracted by lyrical, openly autobiographical poetry. He wrote Elizabeth Barrett that "you do what I always wanted, hoped to do. . . . You speak out, you, — I only make men and women speak—give you truth broken into prismatic hues, and fear the pure white light, even if it is in me."11 The poet of "the pure white light" was, of course, Shelley, the "sun-treader" whom he had evoked as inspiration in his "Fragment of a Confession," "Pauline," and whose spirit he deliberately banished from "Sordello" and the poetry that followed.12 Shelley was the type of the "subjective" poet, as Browning was later to describe him, for whom song and self were the same: "what he produces will be less a work than an effluence ... indeed the very radiance and aroma of his personality, pro- jected from it but not separated."13 In his own poetry self was to have no such role. "My poetry is far from 'the completest expression of my being" (quoted Miller 12).

This deliberate suppression of self had potentially frightening consequences, as Browning hinted in an extraordinary description of himself to Elizabeth Barrett.

To be grand in simile, for every poor speck of a Vesuvius or a Stromboli in my microcosm there are huge layers of ice and pits of cold water — and I make the most of my two or three fire-eyes, because I know by experience, alas, how these tend to extinction—and the ice grows and grows. ... I am utterly unused, of these late years particularly, to dream of communicating anything about that to another person (all my writings are purely dramatic as I am always anxious to say). . . . [Letters 74]

Purging his poetry of morbid introspection, the young poet felt he risked extinguishing vital emotion in himself altogether, risked condemning himself to a kind of Dantean hell where "the ice grows and grows." Elizabeth Barrett did not require him to extinguish the "fire-eyes" he showed to her, and in the next twenty years Browning articulated his new method for exploring the "layers of ice and pits of cold water," without introspection, in his poetry.

"Fra Lippo Lippi" (1855; text) first described the redirection of the autobiographical impulse which Browning defended at length in his own voice at the beginning of The Ring and the Book (1868). Fra Lippo will paint only what he sees outside himself. He refuses to maintain artistic isolation, moving back and forth over the walls of monastery or Medici mansion. And the artistic process itself, he argues, permits him an imaginative participation in the society he paints, like that he claims when he follows pretty girls down Florentine alleys. "Lending our minds out" (1.306) we embody ourselves in what we see and paint. This desire is graphically realized at the end of the poem when Fra Lippo imagines how he will paint himself into his picture. His art becomes a means, not for direct self-exploration, but for the affirmation of an identity based on community. Returning to this conception of the artist in The Ring and the Book, Browning describes how "by a special gift, an art of arts. . . ./I can detach from me, commission forth/Half of my soul" (1.746, 749-50) and send it out to reanimate the shades of the dead. The artist or poet who

bounded, yearning to be free,
May so project his surplusage of soul
In search of body, so add self to self
By owning what lay ownerless before (1.722-5)

can not only, as Browning claims, give dramatic life to the past, he can also free himself from the restrictions of morbid introspection or of a deliberate suppression of identity in his work. Under the guise of a dramatic fiction, the poet can "add self to self," reaching out to affirm his own now-multiplied identity through his sympathy for the people for whom he speaks. He finds a route through poetry to the identity of mutuality. At the same time, of course, he permits himself and his readers to regain the distance necessary for moral judgment—a distance which the youthful author of "Pauline" could not achieve. In the dramatic monologue. Browning finds a way for the objective poet to make his work, too, "the very radiance and aroma of his personality, projected from it but not separated."

Arnold does not share Browning's and Tennyson's radical struggle to alter the metaphors, form, and structure of the greater romantic lyric in order to praise mutuality. He does articulate more exactly and powerfully than any of his contemporaries their conviction that neither Christian remembrance of God nor romantic imaginative experience could change a painful isolation of the self. "Yes! in the sea of life enisled, . . . We mortal millions live alone" his "To Marguerite—Continued" begins. The perplexing word is "Yes!"; the tone of the poem is hardly affirmative. Between the first and last stanzas something happens which makes that "Yes!" impossible. Isolation, at the beginning of the poem, may even be fruitful. Through it, the islands know "their endless bounds." The phrase is marvellously ambiguous. If "endless" is temporal, the mortal millions discover that individual identity is permanent, and as such, a kind of bondage. The "Yes!" is contradicted even before the "But" of the second stanza. But "endless" is also spatial, and suggests that the individual, circular bounds of each island may potentially be extended infinitely—to include every island. The character of the sea in the preceding line strengthens this possibility. The mortal islands perceive it as "enclasping," folding each of them in a common embrace. They also feel it as "flow": the "sea of life" has suddenly become something very like a river of life. The islands perceive in it not only a shared embrace but also a shared directional movement. Individual identity then becomes the means to mutual identity, and a shared sense of purpose. We are probably not mistaken if we are reminded of "the sea of faith" in "Dover Beach," and follow the metaphor back to Donne's "No man is an island."

The desire which is kindled in the next two stanzas, however, ignores the uniting potential of the sea and regrets the absence of more solid connections ("For surely once, they feel, we were/Parts of a single continent!"). The setting (moonlit hollows, balmy spring, singing nightingales) allows us to recognize this impulse as a specific romantic one. But Arnold's poem ends very differently from Keats. The last stanza allows neither uncertainty nor ambiguity: the romantic desire is "cooled" and "rendered vain"; the "enclasping flow" is altered to "The umplumbed, salt, estranging sea." Both romantic and Christian attempts to nullify individual isolation are declared void. Song is abandoned, verbal paradox is given up, metaphor is progressively reduced to single, separate terms. The sea of life is lifeless, the sea of faith, faithless. The link established in metaphor is destroyed, and we are left with seas and lives and a memory of faith, which the imagination cannot unite. Figurative connection becomes literal isolation, a characteristic movement in Arnold's poetry. This disintegration of metaphor can be as moving as its incredible extensions by Ruskin, but both lead, as Arnold recognized, to the end of poetry.

Ruskin shared the poets' distaste for solitary self-discovery in print, and for very similar reasons. Praeterita, like "The Two Voices," "Empedocles on Etna," and "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came," portrays introspective journeying as isolated, self-involved, and finally fruitless: incapable of yielding a confident sense of self, or an exhilarating view of a purposeful life. Ruskin began his autobiography with the sense that the solitary quest for identity had failed, and, indeed, had been mistaken from the start.

A passage from an early version of Praeterita is a quite candid confession of shapelessness: "1 was a mere piece of potter's clay, of fine texture, and could not only be shaped into anything, but could take the stamp of anything, and that with precision." So far of his 23-year-old self, but Ruskin continues in the present tense:

Which is the real virtue of me as respects other people. What shape of vase or cylinder I may arrive at myself is really of small consequence to them, but the impressions I take of things of them are trustworthy to the last line, and by the end of the forty years became sufficiently numerous. [618]

Ruskin's familiar arrogance is there in the assertion that his impressions are "trustworthy to the last line." There is also a note of apology or defense, perhaps for the absence (and indeed, the condemnation) of introspection: Ruskin's self is "of small consequence" to his readers. But the final admission, which Ruskin may have wished to suppress when he cancelled the passage, is telling: at the age of 65 he felt he still had no shape, no identity beyond that of passive and precise observer. "He was too amorphous to impress himself upon others. Shape or shapelessness may have been "of small consequence" to his readers, but it was of great concern to Ruskin himself. Again and again in Praeterita he regrets lost opportunities to be something or someone more definite than a sensitive eye: a geologist, a skilled draftsman; or a lover, friend, or husband.

Ruskin's distaste for his protean identity is reflected in his playful epithets for his younger self. At 21, for example, he is "simply a little floppy and soppy tadpole,—little more than a stomach with a tail to it, flattening and wriggling itself up the crystal ripples and in the pure sands the spring-head of youth" (279-80). He is as unformed and self-contained as "a squash before 'tis a peascod," a "codling or cocoon" (261): as ludicrously but pathetically inept in social situations "as a skate in an aquarium trying to get up the glass" (180). Ruskin's humor, for all its deliberate grotesqueness, allows him to convey an important perception about himself while keeping "morbid" introspection out of the autobiography. The unformed or amorphous creatures to which he compares himself are almost totally self-contained or self-involved. Their innocent, stubborn self-sufficiency is both ridiculous and sad, seen from any other perspective than their own. Though the bitterness in the observation is muted, Ruskin portrays the process through which his identity was formed as excessively isolated and self-absorbed, a chrysalid period which, however, failed in the end to yield the expected psyche.

Praeterita, like In Memoriam, is autobiography which opposes a self-involvement which it must nonetheless record. In Ruskin's case the persistence of the child's view ot the world, shaping the memories of the older man, is itself the best evidence that he is right: he has not escaped the self-involvement of his childhood, in spite of opportunities to do so. He has, however, consciously rejected it, and he presents in Praeterita an alternative to introspective isolation. Each of the three major Victorian poets had preceded him in the attempt to replace a program of internal questing, identified with romanticism, with a deliberate turning outward of the self. For Tennyson this outward turn was a movement of the heart and feelings, first experienced in his friendship with Hallam, then lost and recovered in a subversive romantic lyric. In Memoriam. Arnold's movement outward is accomplished by giving up poetry for criticism, where the concern for self-expression is consciously replaced by a concern for the needs of his audience. Browning's turn is a change of voice, from lyric to dramatic monologue, displacing and multiplying the "self of his poetry. For Ruskin the change is learning to see in a different way, turning the self outward through the eyes. The most important episodes in Praeterita are those in which Ruskin's eyes are opened—to mountains at Schaffhausen and the Col de la Faucille, to ivy or aspen structure at Norwood and Fontainebleau, to art in Italy, to Veronese in the sunlight at Turin. These views become emblems of Ruskin's peculiar sensibility—a way of describing the self while at the same time extending the self. Sharing his landscapes with thousands of readers of his prose descriptions, he makes these visual analogues of himself a means of breaking the chrysalid of his childhood. But Ruskin's escape from isolating forms of self-discovery and self-involved writing is only partly successful. The descriptions of his childhood perceptions show us that visual study of everything outside the self tended to become a form of self-regarding vision after all. The "secluded years" (132) in the "self-engrossed quiet of the Herne Hill life" (138) appear in Praeterita as one long process of morbid introspection because everything the young Ruskin sees becomes himself. The book suggests that his redirected visual appetite did not entirely relieve him of the burden of an unsatisfying identity, conceived in an isolation which the hungry eye could not alter.

II

Discontent with solitary self-discovery appears also as direct criticism of the romantic programme, especially of the private quest, in the poetry of the 1850s. It was almost always a critique from within: poems whose nominal form and kind were introspective, like In Memoriam (1850), or in which quests were major metaphors ("The Scholar-Gypsy" in 1853, "Childe Roland" in 1855), yet which questioned the validity of this pursuit of self-knowledge and fulfillment. In their quarrel with romantic models for discovering the self, the poets turned the forms and metaphors of the introspec- tive romantic lyric inside out.

Perhaps the most influential of these models was Wordsworth. The Prelude, published posthumously in 1850, invites comparison with the Victorian alterations of introspective poetry in the decade that followed.16 There are two points of particular importance to be noted from The Prelude: first, Wordsworth is as confident at the beginning of his poem as he is at its end that he can perceive his life as a movement in a single direction. Second, his confidence is confirmed in the famous spots of time, moments of private vision which give him what is really self-revelation. This is the pattern which both Ruskin and the poets attempt to follow and finally reject.

Book I of The Prelude closes with Wordsworth's anticipation of shape in the life he is about to recount:

forthwith shall be brought down
Through later years the story of my life.
The road lies plain before me; — 'tis a theme
Single and of determined bounds. [638-41]

At the end of Book XIV he again describes a view of his life attained before the beginning of his song:

I said unto the life which I had lived,
Where art thou? . . .
. . . Anon I rose
As if on wings, and saw beneath me stretched
Vast prospect of the world which I had been
And was; and hence this Song. [377-82]

To the road and the prospect he adds a third metaphor for his sense of an inner life forming a continuous, clearly visible whole, the stream:

We have traced the stream
From the blind cavern whence is faintly heard
Its natal murmur; followed it to light
And open day: accompanied its course
Among the ways of Nature, for a time
Lost sight of it bewildered and engulphed;
Then given it greeting as it rose once more
In strength, reflecting from its placid breast
The works of man and face of human life;
And lastly, from its progress have we drawn
Faith in life endless, the sustaining thought
Of human Being, Eternity, and God. [XIV. 194-205]

The tracing of the stream makes explicit what the image of the road already promised: that Wordsworth's life is not only continuous movement but purposive movement in one direction: it is progress towards a goal, "The Growth of a Poet's Mind" to maturity, a journey to a now-achieved identity which is profoundly satisfying to the poet.

The prospect of his life as road or stream is attained in the ascent to vision. Wordsworth revisits "spots of time" which "retain/A renovating virtue . . . which enables us to mount/When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen" (XII.210; 217-18). The remembered spots of time reveal to reflection what the vision on Mt. Snowden—the classic moment of revelation — immediately illuminated: the imagination or "Power of mind" which both shapes the poet's life and gives it its purpose, to celebrate the "mind of Man" in poetry. The mind reveals itself to itself, both in Wordsworth's visions and, for the reader, in the experience of the poem.

Tennyson's subtitle for In Memoriam, "The Way of a Soul," suggests that he will, like Wordsworth, trace a single movement or progress in time. Some structural features of the poem confirm this, notably the periodic measurement of passing time in the Christmas sections. Tennyson also makes an ascent to visionary experience (Section 95) following a major depression, and after that vision accepts his present life. The poem ends with the celebration of a marriage. All these elements link his poem not only with Wordsworth's but with the long tradition of spiritual autobiography descending from Augustine (see Abrams). But external structure and subtitle—imposed, in fact, after much of the poem was written—do not entirely correspond either to what the poem savs or how it is said. More accurately, the poem subverts the form which it nominally resembles. The effect of Hallam's death on Tennyson is to make him reject the idea of life as a way, road, path, or track, and to try to replace it with a different sense of life's shape.

The speaker's attitude toward the traditional autobiographer's view of his life changes only gradually in the course of the poem. In Section 22 he recalls "the path by which we twain did go" in their four years of friendship. This view of their entwined lives is quite adequate; in fact, he remembers, "we with singing cheer'd the way." In Section 23, abandoned by Hallam, Tennyson is left to "wander, often falling lame." In this and the next three sections, he looks "back to whence I came,/Or on to where the path- way leads" (23), but the prospect is in both cases painful. Looking back, he cries "How changed" (23); looking forward, he finds "Still onward winds the dreary way; I with it" (26). "I know that this was Life,—the track/Whereon with equal feet we fared" (25), he reflects, but his perception of life as a track is strongest when it has become least appeal- ing, when he is left to walk it alone. By Section 38 Tennyson's progress along the track has slowed almost a halt, and his views, both forward and backward, ha disappeared.

With weary steps I loiter on,
Tho' always under alter'd skies
The purple from the distance dies,
My prospect and horizon gone.

Once Tennyson's and Hallam's paths diverge (40), the single motion and prospect of which Wordsworth was so confident become, for Tennyson, first a burden and finally an impossibility. Section 46 confirms the viewlessness as a general human phenomenon. Memory, especially, fails to provide us with a sense of continuous life, "The path we came by, thorn and flower,/Is shadow'd by the growing hour/Lest life should fail in looking back." Autobiography, in the usual sense of the word, is under such conditions impossible. There is, for Tennyson, only one perspective from which a view is possible:

. . . there no shade can last In that deep dawn behind the tomb,
But clear from marge to marge shall bloom
The eternal landscape of the past. (46)

From that perspective, however, life does not appear as a track or path or way at all. It is fully occupied space, not time stretched like a road from point to point. It is a flowering "eternal landscape," "a lifelong tract of time" with rich fields and "fruitful hours of still increase" — where "still" is a wonderful paradox of silent, stopped motion which nonetheless suggests continued fruitfulness. This view of life as a fruitful landscape, in which loitering will be a pleasure, is already Hallam's, and it resembles the view which Tennyson and Hallam took of their lives when they were together and still unconscious of passing time. Tennyson does not want to ascend to Wordsworth's clear view of his life as road or stream progressing to a goal. He wants to see it as a landscape, preferably fruitful, of course:

a whole in which progress or purposive action do not exist. Hallam holds the memory of Tennyson's past, and thus his identity; he also holds the secret of a way of viewing that identity which Tennyson finds far more satisfactory.

There are only two ways for Tennyson to attain this vision: to die, or somehow to regain Hallam's companionship. This is what he achieves in Section 95, after he has at last relaxed his conscious will (Section 70) which clings, like the yew tree, to the memory of the dead Hallam. Gradually and involuntarily, in dream, daydream, memory, and trance, Tennyson moves outward from himself to his friend, until he has recaptured the experience of mutuality which had once given him a different sense of his identity. Section 95 is not, like Wordsworth's Snowden experience or Augustine's vision in the garden, the revelation to Tennyson of who he is, or where he is going. It is a reunion ("The living soul was flashed on mine,/And mine in this was wound") accompanied by a new, musical harmony in what Tennyson, treading the weary path, had heard as "The steps of Time—the shocks of Chance—/The blows of Death." The reunion makes possible the marriage at the poem's end, a "happy hour" which recalls the "fruitful hours" of Hallam's view of life, or of Tennyson's and Hallam's mutual experience. The marriage itself may exemplify the harmonization of temporal steps which Tennyson, united with Hallam, could hear, for he says "In that it is thy marriage day/Is music more than any song." His own poem is not that music: "the songs I made" sound to him, after his reunion with Hallam, "As echoes out of weaker times,/As half but idle brawling rhymes." This is harsh, but we should recognize that Tennyson's poem is a mixed vision and a mixed music. Its external structure is that of the spiritual autobiography. But as we follow the poem, we, like Tennyson, lose our way, and find ourselves loitering and viewless, turned back on ourselves in beautiful lyrics of enclosing rhymes—by a poet who is curiously indirect about what is happening to him. The poem means to question, I think, the essential elements of the pilgrimage autobiography, both Christian and romantic: the view that one's self can be discovered by tracing the temporal path of one's life, that the self must be a solitary figure, and that that figure can or should pursue an introspective journey toward a self-revealing vision.

Yet, paradoxically, Tennyson recovers the identity of mutuality when he is most alone. Hallam touches him, in section 95, after his friends leave him. His final vision of Hallam as the type of a perfected humanity comes when he retires from the marriage feast to watch the moon rise. And in that vision Tennyson finds a perspective from which hfe can be seen as temporal path. The way of the soul which confident become, for Tennyson, first a burden and finally an impossibility. Section 46 confirms the viewlessness as a general human phenomenon. Memory, especially, fails to provide us with a sense of continuous life, "The path we came by, thorn and flower,/Is shadow'd by the growing hour/Lest life should fail in looking back." Autobiography, in the usual sense of the word, is under such conditions impossible. There is, for Tennyson, only one perspective from which a view is possible:

. . . there no shade can last
In that deep dawn behind the tomb,
But clear from marge to marge shall bloom
The eternal landscape of the past. (46)

From that perspective, however, life does not appear as a track or path or way at all. It is fully occupied space, not time stretched like a road from point to point. It is a flowering "eternal landscape," "a lifelong tract of time" with rich fields and "fruitful hours of still increase"—where "still" is a wonderful paradox of silent, stopped motion which nonetheless suggests continued fruitfulness. This view of life as a fruitful landscape, in which loitering will be a pleasure, is already Hallam's, and it resembles the view which Tennyson and Hallam took of their lives when they were together and still unconscious of passing time. Tennyson does not want to ascend to Wordsworth's clear view of his life as road or stream progressing to a goal. He wants to see it as a landscape, preferably fruitful, of course: a whole in which progress or purposive action do not exist. Hallam holds the memory of Tennyson's past, and thus his identity; he also holds the secret of a way of viewing that identity which Tennyson finds far more satisfactory.

There are only two ways for Tennyson to attain this vision: to die, or somehow to regain Hallam's companionship. This is what he achieves in Section 95, after he has at last relaxed his conscious will (Section 70) which clings, like the yew tree, to the memory of the dead Hallam. Gradually and involuntarily, in dream, daydream, memory, and trance, Tennyson moves outward from himself to his friend, until he has recaptured the experience of mutuality which had once given him a different sense of his identity. Section 95 is not, like Wordsworth's Snowden experience or Augustine's vision in the garden, the revelation to Tennyson of who he is, or where he is going. It is a reunion ("The living soul was flashed on mine,/And mine in this was wound") accompanied by a new, musical harmony in what Tennyson, treading the weary path, had heard as "The steps of Time—the shocks of Chance—/The blows of Death." The reunion makes possible the marriage at the poem's end, a "happy hour" which recalls the "fruitful hours" of Hallam's view of life, or of Tennyson's and Hallam's mutual experience. The marriage itself may exemplify the harmonization of temporal steps which Tennyson, united with Hallam, could hear, for he says "In that it is thy marriage day/Is music more than any song." His own poem is not that music: "the songs I made" sound to him, after his reunion with Hallam, "As echoes out of weaker times,/As half but idle brawling rhymes." This is harsh, but we should recognize that Tennyson's poem is a mixed vision and a mixed music. Its external structure is that of the spiritual autobiography. But as we follow the poem, we, like Tennyson, lose our way, and find ourselves loitering and viewless, turned back on ourselves in beautiful lyrics of enclosing rhymes—by a poet who is curiously indirect about what is happening to him. The poem means to question, I think, the essential elements of the pilgrimage autobiography, both Christian and romantic: the view that one's self can be discovered by tracing the temporal path of one's life, that the self must be a solitary figure, and that that figure can or should pursue an introspective journey toward a self-revealing vision.

Yet, paradoxically, Tennyson recovers the identity of mutuality when he is most alone. Hallam touches him, in section 95, after his friends leave him. His final vision of Hallam as the type of a perfected humanity comes when he retires from the marriage feast to watch the moon rise. And in that vision Tennyson finds a perspective from which hfe can be seen as temporal path. The way of the soul which cannot be traced by the isolated traveler reappears as a collective destiny. Tennyson finally has it both ways: for the individual, identity is conferred through mutuality, and life assumes the aspect of the fruitful field. But through friendship and marriage the individual also affirms his membership in a larger community. The evolution of the human race possesses the linear shape which the isolated individual cannot see i his own life. In Memoriam does not dispense with solitary vision or linear progress, but it does deliberately frustrate our expectations of an introspective journey towards that vision, and alter the content of that vision as well. If Tennyson succeeds, he will finally convince us that his strangely atemporal wanderings among regretful and happy memories, daydreams, and dreams, constitute a different approach to exploring and presenting the self.

The "river of our life" ("The Buried Life," 1.39) proves as unsatisfactory a metaphor for Arnold as "Life's track" for Tennyson. Arnold's stream cannot be traced as Wordsworth's could and was. It is byried permanently, not just "for a time/Lost sight of." "Unregarded" (39) and indeed "indiscernible" (40), the stream cannot fulfill its major function, to assure a perception of purposive movement in a single direction. Even if one's life really does have such a shape (and Arnold, unlike Tennyson, does not deny that it does), the knowledge is useless to the individual in search of himself, who can only perceive that we "seem to be/ Eddying at large in blind uncertainty" (42-43). The ascent to vision is as impossible as the preliminary view. The most one can hope for is a momentary awareness "of his life's flow" (88), which comes, .ignificantly, not through introspection but through the 1 ind, the eyes, the voice of someone else. Mutual recognition may lead to self-cognition, but the moment is hardly visionary. At best,

he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose
And the sea where it goes. [96-98].

The speaker in "The Scholar-Gypsy," like the modern man of "The Buried Life," is a latter-day romantic quester, but the man he seeks and finds is not himself. The speaker follows the scholar-gypsy, who is looking for a lost art. It is the art of questing which the speaker has lost, however. His quest provides him with a kind of identity, but only by

contrast with the anester of old:
O life unlike to ours!
Who fluctuate idly without term or scope,
Of whom each strives, nor knows for what he strives,
And each half lives a hundred different lives;
Who wait like thee, but no;, like thee. in hope. [166-70] .

Arnold's scholar-gypsy, Tennyson's Ulysses and Galahad, and Browning's Childe Roland, are sadly out of date. Their solitary journeys are possibly glorious but almost certainly suicidal. They bring back no visions and no gospel. The would-be modern quester, like Arnold's speaker, does not even attain the prospects afforded to his ill-fated models. In place of the single life, he is likely to perceive "a half a hundred"—loose threads attached to no ends, which only later autobiographers will discover are perpetually woven and unwoven, Penelope-fashion, into the fabric of a differently conceived self.

Childe Roland, last of the late questers of the 1850s, outlives his companions but not his quest. He has no emulators. His quest has none of the appeal to which someone like Arnold's speaker can respond. The scholar-gypsy is immortally young; the "childe" is a perpetual adolescent, still seeking his adult identity. The scholar-gypsy wanders through an anachronistically pastoral landscape; the childe tries vainly to see symbolic significance in what might well be an industrial wasteland. The childe's path behaves very much like Tennyson's track: it disappears behind him and darkens in front of him. The reasons for the shadowing may be the same: "Better this present than a past like that" (103), the childe says. The fading path is not replaced by any vision of fruitful space like that Tennyson can imagine, however. The childe remains committed to his path and his goal; he sees everything else as "gray plain all round:/ Nothing but plain to the horizon's bound" (52-53). The childe's goal is quite dark, too, and what is more, it remains so when he finally reaches it—not only dark, but viewless: "blind as the fool's heart" (182). The signs of the long-expected revelation are all there: recognition ("This was the place!" 176), light ("why, day/Came back again for that!" 187-8), and annunciatory sound ("it tolled/Increasing like a bell" 193-4). But the tolling bells are doubly ominous; they announce his death, he assumes, but to us they may also echo a forlorn return "to my sole self." The childe's arrival at a tower "blind as the fool's heart" supports that possibility, but it doesn't promise much in the way of self-revelation. Sight and sound do tell the childe something, but he does not directly apply it to himself.

Names in my ears
Of all the lost adventurers my peers, — . . .
Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years. [194-5, 198]

"In a sheet of flame/I saw them and I knew them all," he continues, "And yet . . ." (201-2). The childe blows his horn to proclaim an arrival already stated in the past tense.

The poem ends, but the "sheet of flame" has not illuminated either the Dark Tower or the disappearing path along which he has come. His consciousness of his past, of his present identity, and of his apparently achieved goal is no different than it has ever been. The ascent to vision, if that is what it was, was a hoax: it gave him no new prospect. His life is what he experienced while he lived it, not to be transformed by a single moment of action or vision, no matter how faithfully pursued. We don't know whether the childe sees even this much before he blows his horn. It is a wonderful gesture, but just how blindly heroic we can't tell. Is he still looking for his moment of truth, in a final confrontation with the unknown? Or does he realize he has had it, that the end of his quest is only to be able to announce, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came"?

Browning's poem is a radical critique of the romantic programme, yet it acknowledges the attraction as well as the dangers of the solitary quest to a Victorian. It is in some ways the most personal of Browning's poems, to be read together with the essay in praise of Shelley which he finished only two years later. Yet the personal material—the same that he used in the "intense and morbid" "Pauline" seventeen years earlier—is brilliantly controlled in "Childe Roland." The means by which this poetic control is achieved, lending the mind out to realize itself in dramatic fictions, is Browning's alternative to Childe Roland's suicidal heroism.

Sixty-seven years later Pound recognized in Browning's dramatic experiment "Sordello" the redirected autobiographical impulse I have suggested. "You had your business," he tells Browning in an early draft of Canto I:

To set out so much thought, so much emotion;
To paint, more real than any dead Sordello,
The half or third of your intensest life
And call that third Sordello:
And you'll say. "No, not your life,
He never showed himself."
Is't worth the evasion, what were the use
Of setting figures up and breathing life upon them,
Were't not our life, your life, my life, extended?18

But fragmented, fictional autobiography was not, finally, what Pound wanted in his Cantos. His rejection of the romantic quest for identity was still more drastic than Browning's. The monologues were too taken up with the narrative, "prose part" of a character's life; Pound wanted only "to catch the character I happen to be interested in the moment he interests me" (Letters 3-4.). And in the final verses of his argument with Browning, Pound rejected an autobiographical interest in multiple Pounds to concern himself with multiple Sordellos.

Hang it all, Robert Browning, there can be but one "Sordello."
But Sordello, and my Sordello?
Lo Sordels si fo di Mantovana.

Pound's lines record the shift from autobiography to history which Browning himself began.

"The Way of a Soul," when Browning, Arnold, and Tennyson explore it in the 1850s, turns out to be far more devious than the open road which beckoned Wordsworth. To follow a single, temporal path seems difficult, perhaps impossible. Worse than that, to pursue it is to be misled, and for the poet, to be misleading as well. A growing concern with consciousness rather than simple action points to a new view of individual life not as a pilgrimage but as an intricate, unfinished web of memory and human connection, "that strange, perpetual weaving and unweaving of ourselves." Explicit concern with consciousness isolated from moral action is not acceptable to the Victorians any more than the old view of self-discovery as a form of moral action, a quest for individual truth. The deliberate pursuit of patterns of consciousness. Pater discovers, seems as morbid, self-involved, and probably fruitless as romantic questing. But those patterns can be suggested indirectly, by using literary forms and structures new to autobiographical writing. Tennyson and Browning are the great Victorian pioneers, using fictional more often than actual autobiography for their experiments. These experiments lead in two directions. Tennyson, Ruskin, and finally Proust replace the isolated traveler on the single track with views of fruitful landscapes or remembered experiences, to suggest the texture of a sensibility. Browning, the Tennyson of the monologues, Carlyle, and Butler divide the self into multiple characters—protagonists, editors, narrators—and by this imaginative displacement cf the self reach out toward more complex and less introspective identities. Joyce and Pound inherit their strategies. The new Ulysses will be irrevocably wedded to a Victorian-born Penelope.


Victorian Web Genre and Style Literary Technique Autobiography

Last modified 16 July 2012