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A Bibliographic History of the Idylls of the King
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A Bibliographic History of the Idylls of the King

Evidently from the days of his youth Tennyson had resolved on creating a "major poem," and from an equally early period he settled upon the Arthurian legends as a subject which had not yet been exhausted. Hallam Tennyson reprints in his biography three different sketches for an Arthur poem, all dating from the 1830s. One is a short prose draft, one a set of jottings which create an allegorical framework (presumedly for a large work), one an outline for a five-act play. And there were, evidently, further attempts, now lost. In 1859, when Tennyson was finally polishing his first four Idylls for the press, he wrote his friend the Duke of Argyll that, "Many years ago I did write 'Lancelot's Quest of the Grail' in as good verse as I ever wrote, no, I did not write, I made it in my head, and it has now altogether slipt out of memory (Mem., I, 457). The significance of these sketches and early, mentally composed poems is that the Arthurian legends represented for Tennyson, from the early days of his creative life, the monumental project which, in the future, it was his destiny to complete. There were moments when he was discouraged, diverted. But, from our vantage point, looking back on his career, it is difficult to see how he could have avoided writing the Idylls. It was, from the beginning, the focus of his life's work.

The poem, as we now have it, germinated during the intense emotional crisis which struck Tennyson on hearing of the death of his friend, Arthur Hallam, in 1833. Their friendship was deep and intense, and Tennyson felt a serious personal loss. But further, as the long sequence of lyrics In Memoriam: A. H. H. demonstrates, in Hallam's death Tennyson discovered the reality of death itself. The poems begun in this period are filled not only with laments for the departed Hallam, but with morose brooding over man's mortality. And it is in the midst of these sorrows and fears that the first draft of "Morte d'Arthur" appears, written out in a notebook between In Memoriam lyrics and sketches for "The Two Voices," once titled "Thoughts of a Suicide" (Mem., I, 109). This first draft appears in a Trinity College manuscript (Ct—17) and is clearly headlined First Draft. The manuscript also contains a second draft of the poem, this time with the lines numbered. Sir Charles Tennyson is sure these drafts were done during the year 1833.[8] Tennyson was evidently finished with the poem by 1834, when "he told Tennant he was busily copying out his 'Morte d'Arthur' . . ." (Mem., I, 138).

The poem was not published until the now-famous two-volume edition of Tennyson poems published in 1842. But this does not mean that it rested on the shelf during the interval between its drafting and its first


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publication. Tennyson was habitually reading his poems to his friends; and Edward Fitzgerald, the translator of Omar Khayyám, tells of hearing Tennyson read the "Morte" in 1835 (Mem., I, 153). In addition, Tennyson permitted close friends to copy from his manuscript. Several copies still exist. One is from The Heath Commonplace Book (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), a manuscript collection of poems by a friend of Tennyson. At the Houghton Library, Harvard, there are two more copies of the poem, one probably in the hand of James Spedding (MH-H-21).

Whereas the poem was popular with his friends, Tennyson was not at all sure of its public reception. He intended it to be a test of public reaction to his long meditated Arthurian epic. Tennyson hoped a short poem would be readily accessible. "I thought that a small vessel, built on fine lines, is likely to float further down the stream of Time than a big raft."[9] Regardless of the merit of the poem itself, Tennyson's fears were probably justified. "In 1842," as Kathleen Tillotson has written, "Arthurian story was still strange to the ordinary reader, and even felt to be unacceptable as a subject for poetry."[10] To prepare the public, Tennyson cushioned his Arthurian tale with a framing poem called "The Epic" which describes a drowsy Christmas Eve party at which the poet Everard Hall is persuaded to read his Arthurian poem, one of "some twelve books" (1.22) which he had burnt, dissatisfied "that nothing new was said, or else/Something so said 'twas nothing . . ." (11.30-31).

The experiment, even with the cushion, was a failure. The collection as a whole drew praise, but the "Morte d'Arthur" was criticized, particularly by John Sterling who felt that "The miraculous legend of 'Excalibur' does not come very near to us, and as reproduced by any modern writer must be a mere ingenious exercise of fancy."[11] Though he often affected indifference, Tennyson was deeply hurt by critical remarks, and in this case he himself confessed that Sterling's strictures "finally decided him to postpone this project, making him feel his powers were not adequate to the task."[12] With this melancholy, though perhaps accurate self-assessment, Tennyson let his Arthurian project lapse for fifteen years. It was twenty-seven years until the "Morte d'Arthur" would be integrated into a new and growing epic whole.

But while Tennyson busied himself with other projects, it is clear that the Idylls were never far from his mind. In 1843, the year after Sterling's review, he was already fashioning the first lines of "Merlin and Vivien" (ll. 228-231) while on a trip to Ireland (Mem., I, 218). In subsequent years he made other trips, with his purpose even more evident. In 1848 he visited


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Bude, Tintagel (Mark's Castle), and Land's End at the tip of Cornwall, legendary land of Lancelot (Ibid., pp. 274-275). Sir Charles Tennyson tells us that on his return home he began work on a Merlin poem, but was interrupted.[13] In August of 1853 Tennyson traveled to Glastonbury (Mem., I, 376-377), the ruined abbey which legend says Joseph of Arimathea founded when he reached England. Readers of the Idylls will recognize at once that these are all places which the poem mentions and describes. Though he may not have admitted it at the time, Tennyson was doing research.

When Tennyson began again, he began in earnest, though the exact date of his new start is subject to debate. Sir Charles Tennyson says that a rough draft for this new Arthurian poem, now called "Merlin and Vivien," was finished by January of 1856.[14] Hallam Tennyson tells us the poem was begun February 1856 and complete (at least in its first form) by March 31st (Mem., I, 414; Mat., II, 161). There still exist a remarkable number of manuscripts and proof states for this poem. We have no less than five different manuscripts representing the early stages of composition, probably written out in the early months of 1856. Two of these manuscripts are single sheets of paper. (MH-H-152) covers lines 237-261, and (CtY-III). actually a torn shred of paper, includes lines 916-918, with fragmentary jotting from "Enid" on the reverse. Then there are three small notebooks which contain more extensive sketches and drafts—(MH-H-30) and (MH-H-31) are both bound, and both have been severely mutilated. (MH-H-30) covers lines 315-353, c. 691ff., and 805-826. (MH-H-31), which also includes drafts for "Guinevere," covers lines 811-843. (MH-H-153a), 16 pages of paper sewn together, contains extensive drafts, in somewhat scrambled order, covering lines 267-458, 553-630, 666-683, 838-862.

All of these manuscripts represent Tennyson's first steps in composition. All of them, save (CtY-III), remained in the family collection until the 1950s. There are also two fair drafts of the whole poem still extant. The first, presented to Frederick Locker and auctioned in 1924,[15] is now in the Huntington Library (CSmH-HM-1326). This draft precedes the second fair copy, now in the Harvard Library as Lowell 1827.12.[16] Tennyson gave this manuscript to Mrs. Julia Cameron, the pioneer photographer and his neighbor on the Isle of Wight. She sent to him asking for the manuscript for "Guinevere," the Victorian favorite from the first volume of the Idylls. Evidently Emily Tennyson was slightly piqued at this, and Alfred sent Mrs. Cameron the draft for "Merlin and Vivien" (Mat., II, 220). It, like


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the Huntington, is complete, and it is evidently one of the last copies made before the first printed proof.

"Merlin and Vivien" was not, in its early stages, known by that title. In fact, the wily seductress of Arthur's wizard is called, on all the manuscript drafts and in the early proof states, Nimuë. And that name was the first title given the poem.

There are five different states of printer's proof for "Nimuë"—"Vivien," the first four employing the name "Nimuë." The first of these is in the British Museum "trial book" Enid and Nimuë: The True and the False, designated here as (L-1). The second is one of two proof states bound in the Forster Library volume, The True and the False. It can be distinguished from the later Forster proof by the name of the villainess, and by its length, 97 pages. The third proof state is represented by three different copies, two in the Tennyson Research Centre in Lincoln, designated (LiT-M1), one in the Yale Library (CtY-VIII), which is fragmentary. The fourth state, in two copies, can also be found at the Tennyson Centre, and is here called (LiT-M2). In the fifth state the name is finally altered to "Vivien." The sole known copy of this state is the second proof for "Merlin and Vivien" in the Forster collection. It is 101 pages in length. Finally, there is the actual first edition state, which appeared in 1859. A quick glance will show the vital role these successive proof stages played in the development of the poem's punctuation, as well as in the final polishing of certain phrases and lines. Tennyson was not finished with "Merlin and Vivien" after the 1859 publication. He was to return to it again in the years 1872-1874, to alter a number of passages, and add 140 new lines. I will describe the manuscripts relating to these changes in my account of the 1873 and 1874 editions.

Having finished a draft of "Merlin and Vivien" Tennyson turned at once to another tale, which he called, initially, "Enid," but which modern readers know as two distinct idylls, "The Marriage of Geraint," and "Geraint and Enid." In 1870 the poem was retitled "Geraint and Enid," and in 1873 Tennyson split it in half, numbering the parts I and II. Only in 1886 was the first half called "The Marriage of Geraint." For convenience, I will presently deal with it as Tennyson first did, as a single entity, titled "Enid."

Emily Tennyson's diary mentions from time to time the progress her husband was making on this, his second idyll. He began it on 16 April, 1856 (Mat., I, 161). On June 1st he was working on the song "Come in" (Ibid., p. 164). June 16th he wrote his wife that Enid was "a little harder to manage than Merlin" (Ibid., p. 165). By July 27 he had finished the scene describing Geraint asking for Enid's hand (Ibid., p. 167) and on August 1st the tournament was done (Ibid., p. 168). By October 17 he was far enough along to read aloud from "Enid" to his friends, but on November 11 he was still "working at Enid" (Ibid., p. 173). Only on May 6, 1857,


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could he finally write his wife from London telling her that the final proof sheets had been sent to press (Ibid., p. 180).

In the existing manuscripts one can see the struggle which consumed Tennyson over these months. "Enid" is a long poem even by Victorian standards. And it was all composed, bit by bit, in the poet's head, and the scraps jotted down as they came. The notebook, (MH-H-32) is filled, from cover to cover, with such jottings, scattered in random order, written right side up, up side down, sideways. (MH-H-71a) is just slightly more organized.[17] These two manuscripts show us Tennyson laboring over every line. And he faces even more prodigious difficulties when it comes time to join these scraps, along with the "Enid" drafts from (MH-Lo-1) and from manuscripts now lost, into a single, continuous whole. We can see these difficulties in the Trinity manuscript (CT-30). By this point Tennyson is pulling things together, but the struggle involved is manifest in the remarkable number of alterations and revisions which crowd the pages of the Trinity copy. In an effort to see the poem clearly, Tennyson had his wife make a fair draft from the Trinity manuscript, and then recommenced his alterations on this copy, now in the University of Texas Library (TxU-S-E). And his labors extend even into the poem's numerous proof states. The first state exists in two copies, one in the Forster True and False volume (LVA-F-EN1), the other at the Tennyson Centre. (LiT-EN-1). The student can readily spot them by the bizarre printer's error in line 74 of "The Marriage of Geraint," "the column of his knotted throat." The second "Enid" proof state is in the British Museum trial book Enid and Nimuë (L-1). The third and fourth states are both in the Tennyson Research Centre, and are here called (LiT-EN2), (LiT-EN3). The final proof state, again in the Forster volume, is called (LVA-F-EN2).

Once Tennyson had finished the first manuscript drafts for both "Nimuë" and "Enid," he had them set up in type and bound together into a "trial book," a job his printer had finished by May 6, 1857 (Mat., II, 180). As we have already said, this book contains the first "Nimuë" state and the second "Enid" state. Tennyson titled it Enid and Nimuë: The True and the False. Evidently he was seriously considering publishing only these first two poems. And as Hallam Tennyson tells us, "Several friends urged the immediate publication of the newly-written Idylls, among them Jowett, who says . . . 'Anyone who cares about you is deeply annoyed that you are deterred by critics from writing or publishing . . .'" (Mem., I, 425-426). But Tennyson decided against publishing the pair. F. T. Palgrave tells the story.

These two Idylls it was A. T.'s original intention to publish by themselves. Six copies were struck off, but owing to a remark upon Nimuë which reached him, he at once recalled the copies out: . . . From this change of purpose & delay given


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(sic) the idea of publishing the four as 'Idylls of the King': a felicitous accident for English literature![18]
So Tennyson withdrew his "trial book." But he did not turn from his Arthurian epic. Instead, he recommenced writing idylls.

The third, in fact, was already begun by July 9, 1857, when he presented his wife with lines 575-577 of what was to be the poem "Guinevere" (Mem., I, 419). By January 8, 1858 he had written the parting of Arthur and Guinevere (Mat., II, 193). February 1st, Guinevere's final speech, March 5th the song "Too Late," and on March 15th, a finished fair copy (Ibid., p. 195). This was faster work than "Enid" had been, and in later life Tennyson confidently told a friend he had written the poem in "a fortnight" (Mem., II, 202).

The most fascinating "Guinevere" manuscript is (MH-H-31), an early set of sketches for lines 238-253. They tell of the early, magical days of the reign of Arthur, and depict a kingdom of marvels, filled with fairies. These early drafts are narrated in the first person. In later drafts Tennyson put the tale into the mouth of the little novice, thus altering it into a fable recounted of the distant past. (MH-H-36) is, however, the most important of the "Guinevere" manuscripts. As Sir Charles Tennyson describes it, "A characteristic of this fragmentary rough draft is the number of rough notes, often mere indicators of the rhythm and wording of the final text, which are jotted down, here and there, apparently just to fix an idea which had come into the poet's mind."[19] As the manuscript goes on there appear longer continuous passages. The whole covers lines 127-209, 398-682. (CtY-IV) contains a manuscript copy of the song "Too Late," and (MH-H-73a), a single sheet, includes lines 365-394. The Trinity manuscript (CT-39) is a fair draft of the whole poem and leads directly to the first proof state. This can be found in a small volume in the British Museum catalogued as C.133.a.7 (Here, L-2). A second state is in the Forster True and False volume.

Guinevere was finished and copied in March, 1858. By mid-June Emily writes, "He told me his plan for 'The Maid of Astolat.'" (Mat., II,200). We hear little else about the new poem until February 4, 1859, when Tennyson was "finished writing down all but a little of 'The Maid of Astolat'" (Ibid., p. 213). This poem which we now know as "Lancelot and Elaine" retained "The Maid of Astolat" title through two proof states, then becoming "Elaine." Only in 1870 was the title finally altered to the present "Lancelot and Elaine."

Remarkably little seems to have survived from the creation of this long poem. The Houghton Library has a single sheet (MH-H-114a) covering


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lines 1346-1352. There exists only one other early manuscript, but that a very important one. Once in the library of Templeton Crocker, it is now in the Alderman Library of the University of Virginia. Consisting of thirty leaves, this manuscript contains about 725 lines, written, as in the early drafts of the three preceding idylls, in scraps and short blocks of verse. In the Trinity College manuscript (CT-39) these blocks come together. This, while a continuous draft, can hardly be called final. There are many variants, and sometimes, as in the case of Lancelot's final soliloquy, the poet is still roughing out the shape and length of the poem itself. Three proof states survive. The first two are both titled "The Maid of Astolat," though in the second state this is crossed out and replaced (in manuscript) with the new title "Elaine." The first state is found in the small (L-2) book which also contains a proof of "Guinevere." There are portions of another copy of this state at the Tennyson Research Centre. The Centre also possesses the sole copy of the second state, called here (LiT-L2). There is, finally, a third proof state in the Forster volume.

It is time now to talk at greater length about that peculiar book which contains the last proof states of all four idylls as well as the first state of "Enid" and the second of "Nimuë." All are bound together and headed with a title page which was later rejected. Evidently Forster obtained both a complete version of a very late "trial book," created just before the first edition, and some earlier proofs as well, and had them all bound together. This would then be, in part, a second "trial book," and it is considered such by most bibliographers. It bears the title The/ True and the False./ Four Idylls of the King. The University of Virginia possesses another copy of this title page, altered by Tennyson into the final form which was used for the first printing. Why did he change The True and the False to the Idylls of the King? Wise suggests that the 1859 publication of a novel by Lena Eden, False and True, forced the alteration.[20] Whatever the reason, the title page was reset, and yet another set of plates prepared, but this time for an actual publication.

In March 1859 Tennyson went to London to work on the final proofs, and in May the last proofs of "Elaine" were complete (Mem., I, 437). Forty thousand copies were ordered for the first printing and, in the first week of sales, 10,000 copies were sold (Ibid., p. 444). The volume was in the end both financially and poetically very successful.

But with success came the burden of pressure. The first four idylls were not at all a closed entity. Their episodic nature left them open to addition. Further, by this date the initial criticisms of "Morte d'Arthur" were part of a distant past, and any ardent Tennyson reader would have wished that poem to be integrated somehow into a larger whole.

On 24 September 1859, the Duke of Argyll wrote Tennyson, "Macaulay


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. . . was in great hopes that you would pursue the subject of King Arthur, and particularly mentioned the Legend of the 'Sangreal' as also the latter days and death of Lancelot" (Mat., II, 236). But Tennyson was not ready and replied on October 3 that "As to Macaulay's suggestion of the Sangreal, I doubt whether such a subject could be handled in these days, without incurring a charge of irreverence. . . . The old writers believed in the Sangreal" (Mem., I, 457). So, for the moment, the Idylls gave way to other concerns.

On 14 December 1861 Albert, the Prince Consort, died. Tennyson began, almost immediately,[21] to compose a poem dedicating his Idylls to Albert, who once had personally indicated pleasure in the Laureate's Arthurian epic (Mem., I, 455). By January 9, 1862, Tennyson's publishers had the poem set in type.[22] Special copies were printed up and circulated free to those who already possessed a copy of the Idylls. Tennyson sent some copies to the Princess Alice; she replied on January 19, that the Queen felt the poem's lines "had soothed her aching, bleeding heart." (Mem., I, 479-480) There are three manuscript copies of this dedication still extant. (MH-H-96a) is clearly a first draft, with (MH-H-95a) coming as a second draft, embodying the corrections of the first. There is also a peculiar copy made in another hand (CtY-V), which was evidently transcribed from (MH-H-96a) before it was corrected. The Yale Library also has the only known printer's proof for the Dedication (CtY-VI) with manuscript corrections in Tennyson's hand. The British Museum has a copy of the free leaflet, under the press mark C.59.i.2. In 1862 a fourth edition of the Idylls appeared, with a few minor corrections. This edition included, for the first time, the Dedication.

In the meantime, the Holy Grail project continued to trouble Tennyson. In January, 1862, Emily Tennyson writes that "A. T. talks of writing an Idyll on the Quest of the Sangreal but fears handling the subject lest it become irreverent" (Mat., II, 342). The external pressures to expand the Idylls continued as well. On February 23 of the same year Argyll wrote that the Princess Royal "is very anxious that you should make the Morte d'Arthur an ending of the Idylls—adding only something to connect it to Guinevere."[23] It seems evident that Tennyson wanted to go on, but could not find the way.

The dam finally broke in March of 1868. Emily writes, "A. T now worked regularly . . . writing 'The Holy Grail'" (Mat., II, 79). In April yew trees rich with pollen inspired both lines 13-16 of "The Holy Grail" and lyric XXXIV of In Memoriam (Mem., II., 53). By the 9th and 11th of September Tennyson was reading bits of the new poem aloud (Mat., III, 88). September 14 Emily writes that Alfred is ". . . almost finished with the


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'San Gral' in about a week (he had the subject clearly for some time). It came like a breath of inspiration" (Ibid., p. 90). This at first sounds self-contradictory, since there are so many references to earlier composition. Evidently Tennyson must have been considering the poem as a whole for some time and creating only scraps until the momentous week in September when it all came like an "inspiration." The Houghton notebook (MH-H-38) bears this out. It consists of a rough draft of the entire poem in prose, the first instance of Tennyson's following this practice in the creation of a particular idyll. The prose draft occasionally slips into sections of verse, and those could be the bits and pieces he had created incidentally before setting down the prose version. Following the prose comes a verse draft, written out with relative confidence. This is probably the work book for that week of inspiration. Huntington (CSmH-HM-1323) contains a few further drafts for "The Holy Grail," drafts of passages which were still being developed after (MH-H-38). On October 22 Emily tells us that Tennyson "finished copying out his 'Holy Grail' for the press." (Ibid.) She is probably referring to what is now Trinity notebook (CT-29), which contains a complete draft of the poem in a form very close to the first proof state. In November the poem was sent to the printer (Mem., II, 59).

This brings us to a peculiar problem. Tennyson went on, immediately after composing "The Holy Grail," to write three further idylls. All four were set up in proof at the same time and appear, grouped together, in four different proof states. It is easy to arrange these in order. But, in addition, there are two proofs for "The Holy Grail" alone. In both of these proofs the page numbers are printed between parentheses at the center of the page top. The problem is to determine the order of succession.

We begin with the four states of proof for the entire volume, The Holy Grail, Etc. The first of these is in the Ashley Library at the British Museum (L-A-2104). The volume, originally owned by Fredrick Locker-Lampson, was purchased at his death by T. J. Wise. It bears no title page. Of the four idylls therein, three have titles differing from the final version. "The Coming of Arthur" is called "The Birth of Arthur," "Pelleas and Ettarre" is "Sir Pelleas," and "The Passing of Arthur" is "The Death of Arthur." There are manuscript corrections. The second state of proof is in the John Sterling Library at the University of London (LU-S-925). This volume contains the four Grail idylls plus copies of the 1859 idylls, all bound together to form a trial version. The last two proof states are both represented in the collection of the Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln. There is one copy of (LiT-HG1) with the last idyll ending on page 156; the Berg Collection also has a copy of this state (NN-B-VIII), with manuscript corrections. Lincoln holds two copies of (LiT-HG2), with the last idyll ending on page 158. Both of the last two states employ the now-standard titles for the poems. This sequence of four states is readily established. The difficulty arises when one tries to explain where the two special "Holy Grail" proofs belong. The following is my conjecture.


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Tennyson first had the four poems set up in the volume (L-A-2104). He made a few corrections in this version (only eight in the case of "The Holy Grail"), and a second copy was pulled, (LU-S-925). Meanwhile, for the sake of ease, Tennyson had his printers make up some sheets from the Ashley version for further correction and emendation. The corrections from both (L-A-2104) and this new set of proofs (NN-B-VI) were embodied in a second "Holy Grail" proof (MH-H-HGP). Meanwhile, following the Ashley/Sterling tradition only, another version of all four idylls was set up (LiT-HG1) and (NN-B-VIII). Then Tennyson combined the corrections from the (LiT-HG1) (NN-B-VIII) state and the (MH-H-HGP) state into yet another proof state, (LiT-HG2). This became the source of the first edition.

This explanation is complex, and not terribly satisfying. But it seems at least possible, giving the existing confusion of the data.

We have dealt with the proof states for all the idylls included in The Holy Grail, Etc. But we must return now to a brief description of the creation of the three poems which accompanied the title idyll. These poems—"The Coming of Arthur," "Pelleas and Ettarre," and "The Passing of Arthur"—were all written within a remarkably short period of time. The earliest drafts have all been mutilated mercilessly, and probably for commercial motives. It was the custom in the late nineteenth century for a book dealer to increase the value of an item by binding with it manuscript fragments which had an "associational value." A rich collector would be more tempted to purchase a first edition of the Idylls if some manuscript scraps were bound in with the book. Evidently the first drafts for "The Coming of Arthur," "Pelleas and Ettarre," and "The Passing of Arthur" were in the possession of Frederick Locker-Lampson, whose Rowfant


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Library was auctioned in 1904-1905. Thomas J. Wise bought much of this collection, and a few years later he sold John Henry Wrenn a copy of The Holy Grail, Etc. volume with numerous scraps of manuscript bound in.[24] Wise himself retained the proof copy (L-A-2104) we have already discussed and had more scraps bound therein. It seems reasonable to assume that Wise possessed sketches of these three poems, cut up the manuscripts, and evenly distributed the fragments between his copy and Wrenn's. We find further support for this conjecture in the fact that Wise possessed a fair draft of lines 20-71 of the "Coming" while he sold Wrenn the rest of the manuscript, covering lines 74-423.[25] It is difficult to guess how much was lost as Wise plied his lucrative scissors. Certainly, we will never know in what manner these drafts were placed within the notebooks, nor how many draft passages have been destroyed.

Once finished with the story of "The Holy Grail" Tennyson turned to the problem of rendering the very earliest days of Arthur's reign. By February 13, 1869 he was reading portions of "the birth and marriage of Arthur" to his wife (Mem., II, 63). Before the end of February he had read her "all" of the poem, though on May 7 he had just finished "'Leodogran's dream,'" (Ibid., p. 65) the vision which finally persuades Guinevere's father to give her to Arthur in marriage. Probably he had finished the bulk of the poem in February but continued to add to it in later months. We possess early drafts of the poem in the Ashley and Texas (Wrenn) scraps. Next, there is an early full draft of the poem which exists part in the Ashley collection (L-A-4521), part in the Wrenn collection at Texas (TxU-S-C). Finally, there is a late draft in the Berg collection (NN-B-1). This came to New York via the A. H. Japp collection and the library of Jerome Kern.[26] These manuscripts give an account of the writing of the poem as it appeared in 1869. But Tennyson was not yet finished. In the 1873 Library Edition he added lines 66, 94-133, 459-469, 475-502. I will discuss these additions in relation to that volume.

On May 19th of 1869 Tennyson was already reading portions of a new poem, "Sir Pelleas," to his wife (Mat., III, 107). This tale had been on his mind for some time. On 28 June 1859 he had read Malory's "Sir Pelleas and Ettarre" to Mrs. Cameron and Emily Tennyson "with a view to a new poem" (Ibid., II, 220). Now, in the spring of 1869, he carried out his plan. As with "The Coming of Arthur," there are rough drafts, some prose, extant in the Ashley and Texas scraps. Texas also has a continuous draft of the poem (TxU-S-P). Lines 387-403 were added in the 1873 edition.

There seems to be no reliable means for dating the composition of "The Passing of Arthur," though it is safe to say that the work was done in the spring of 1869. Of course, much of the idyll was finished decades earlier,


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as the "Morte d'Arthur." Tennyson now surrounded this poem with new material, fitting it into the overall pattern of his epic. Some early sketches for this framing material still exist. (MH-H-37), (MH-H-39), and a scrap of paper included in the proof state (NN-B-VIII) all contain drafts for Sir Bedivere's speech c. line 51. (MH-H-37) also has further sketches. The Ashley and Texas scraps offer some drafts, and a sheet bound into a copy of The Holy Grail, Etc. in the Widener collection holds a draft of lines 144-154. These are all preparatory manuscripts. There is no known fair copy. As it was published in 1869, "The Passing of Arthur" lacked lines 6-28, added in the 1873 edition.

On November 1, 1869, Emily Tennyson reports that "we were very busy about the new volume of poems, 'The Holy Grail'" (Mem., II, 83). It was around this time, then, that the four trial books already described were set up and amended. On November 25, Emily continues, "A. T. went with Mr. Locker to look after his proofs in London . . ." (Mat., III, 134). Forty thousand copies of the book were printed up at once, and, as Hallam tells us, "in consequence of the large sale, my father made more in this year than in any other, the profit realizing over 10,000 pounds" (Ibid., p. 138). The title page of this volume, The Holy Grail, Etc., is dated 1870, but the book was actually published in December to take advantage of the Christmas trade. Consequently, it is referred to in the present list as ('69). At the same time, Tennyson's publishers released an edition of the Idylls of the King which included not only The Holy Grail, Etc. poems, but the first four idylls as well. This text is subsequent to The Holy Grail, Etc. embodying certain corrections not in The Holy Grail, Etc. (In this list the 1869 Idylls of the King is designated '69). Both these volumes refer, for the first time, to the tales framed by "The Coming" and "The Passing" as "The Round Table." In 1870 Strahan issued an edition of Tennyson's complete works in small volumes, called the Miniature Edition. It contains all the idylls written to that date and is significant in that there are a number of changes in the titles of the poems. "Enid" becomes "Geraint and Enid," "Vivien," "Merlin and Vivien," and "Elaine," "Lancelot and Elaine." There are few textual alterations.

Tennyson was now past the hurdle posed by the San Graal tale, and he evidently regarded the Holy Grail volume as only a step towards his final end. In November of 1870 Emily records the fact that he has already written parts of a new poem, "The Last Tournament" (Mem., II, 100). This project, like the Pelleas tale, had been in his mind for some time. As far back as May 24, 1859 he had read that portion of Malory "where Sir Lancelot behaves so courteously to Sir Palamedes, and where Arthur goes to see La Belle Isoude (with a view to a poem on Tristram and Isolt)" (Mat., II, 218). On July 17, 1866 he composed lines 12-15 of this idyll (Mem., II, 39), though the real work did not begin until November of 1870. May 21, 1871, Emily writes, "He read me his 'Tristram' the plan of which he had been for some weeks discussing with me" (Ibid., p. 104),


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and by the end of May the poem was sent to the printer.[27] It is difficult to tell which printer this is, because "The Last Tournament" first appeared in The Contemporary Review for December, 1871. There are at least three proof states for this publication, all represented in the Texas collection. But there were also two proof states set up before the first book edition. October 23, 1871 Emily again talks of proof, saying, "We arranged 'The Last Tournament' for the press" (Mat., III, 177). It seems probable Tennyson at first had the book proofs set up, and only later decided to let the poem first appear in the periodical.

In (MH-H-40) there is a brief prose draft for the opening of "The Last Tournament." No other prose exists for this poem. Huntington Library manuscript (CSmH-HM-1323) has a draft of the lines describing the tournament day (lines 151-187) and the Berg collection has a complete draft (NN-B-III) from the collection of Sir James Knowles, auctioned in 1928.[28] Tennyson had given the manuscript to Mrs. Knowles, whose husband edited the Contemporary Review (Mat., III, 179). Two proof states precede the first edition. The first state is represented by two copies, (L-A-2101) in the Ashley Library of the British Museum, and a Berg Collection copy (NN-B-III), acquired from the library of Sir James Knowles in 1928. There is a copy of the second state in the University of Texas Library, from the collection of Frederick Locker-Lampson.[29]

As he readied "The Last Tournament" for the printers Tennyson was already at work on yet another idyll, again a project he had long considered. On February 18, 1861 he had read the tale of Sir Gareth in Malory, doubtless considering it for his epic (Mem., I, 471). Emily tells us that on October 19, 1869 Tennyson "gave me his beginning of 'Beaumains' (Sir Gareth) to read, written (as was said jokingly) to 'describe a pattern of youth for his boys'" (Mat., III, 133). Evidently the poet set this project aside in favor of "The Last Tournament." Only when that poem is in print do we again hear of Gareth. November 20, 1871—"A. T. read the beginning of his new poem of 'Sir Gareth' which he had just written down" (Ibid., p. 178). It is a long poem, and Tennyson worked at it for some time.[30] But by July 9th of 1872 he records the manuscript sent to the printers, though he feared that the manuscript was so "ill written" that it would confuse his typesetters (Mem., II, 113). He worked over the proofs during September and by the 24th was able to return them to the printers (Ibid., p. 116), his task finished.

There are a remarkable number of "Gareth" manuscripts in existence. Tennyson began his work for the poem with prose drafts. There is a long


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draft for the opening to the tale, (MH-H-40), part of which was later rejected. The Texas collection includes two pieces of paper with prose sketches, and the Butcher's Book, (MH-H-32), has a sequence of prose passages. This manuscript represents the bridge between prose and verse for the poem, and is one of the most fascinating of the Tennyson manuscripts. Unlike the orderly translation of "The Holy Grail" from prose to verse, "Gareth" was evidently done in a confusion of bits and pieces, leaving bursts of prose and poetry scattered in random order over the many pages of this manuscript. It seems that Tennyson simply grabbed the book at odd times as he worked, only later troubling to bring everything together. The Widener Collection possesses an unusual volume which may directly relate to (MH-H-32). This book, clearly created for a wealthy collector, contains "Gareth" proof sheets for the 1873 Library Edition and numerous drafts for the poem in manuscript. These drafts have been cut from some earlier source and pasted onto pages by the binders. At least one student of Tennyson manuscripts thinks that these Widener scraps come from (MH-H-32).[31] The first continuous draft of the poem can be found in (NN-B-IV) (lines 1-125), while the Bodleian Library copy contains a complete text, on pages the same size as the Butcher's Book. This, in all probability, is the "ill written" manuscript Tennyson sent to his publishers.

There are three proof states for "Gareth." The first, in which the heroine's name is spelled "Lineth," exists in two copies, (L-A-2109) in the British Museum, and (LU-S-929) in the University of London Library. Both contain numerous authorial corrections. There are also two copies of the second state, one in the Berg Collection (NN-B-II), one at the University of Texas. The Texas collection holds as well a unique copy of the third proof state (TxU-S-GP3), this embodying many of the corrections made on the Texas copy of the second state. (TxU-S-GP3) in turn holds even further authorial manuscript corrections, these appearing printed in the first edition.

In December 1872 "The Last Tournament" and "Gareth and Lynette" were published together as Gareth and Lynette, Etc. That edition contained an explanatory paragraph which, in its proof state, indicated that these two poems concluded the Idylls. This was corrected before the book was published, but it indicates the possibility that Tennyson may not have been completely sure of the final shape of the poem, even at this late date. Proofs for this paragraph are now in the Berg Collection and in (TxU-S-GP3).

But Gareth and Lynette, Etc. was not to be the end, for Tennyson had long since begun work on still further additions to his poem. As "The Last Tournament" went to press Tennyson was already "busy about Strahan's Library Edition . . ." (October 23, 1871).[32] This was to be, like the Miniature


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Edition of 1870, a multi-volume collection of Tennyson's work to date. Tennyson seized on the event to further develop his Idylls. This would be the first edition to contain all of the poem he had finished (including the Gareth poems), and so he decided that it would also be a good moment to take a second look at the poem as a whole. Consequently, he began work in 1871 and continued emending the text into 1873. There are hundreds of minor alterations, but Tennyson also took this moment to expand four earlier poems, and write an "Epilogue."

To "Merlin and Vivien" he added lines 187-192. (MH-H-39) has the manuscript draft for these lines. It also contains a draft for some of the additions to "The Coming of Arthur" (lines 59-115). This poem received the most additions, including lines 94-133, 459-469, 475-502. The Pierpont Morgan Library contains a draft for lines 459-467 bound in a copy of The Holy Grail, Etc. (MH-H-29a), a single sheet of paper not in Tennyson's hand, contains a copy of lines 94-134. And the Berg Collection possesses a draft of "The Song of the Battleaxe" (lines 475-502), probably written out November 6, 1872 (Mem., II, 117). At the same time (Mat., III, 198) Tennyson decided to add a song to "Pelleas and Ettarre" (lines 387-403), and there survive two manuscripts, both in the Huntington Museum (CSmH-HM-1324, CSmH-HM-19494), the second in another hand, with manuscript corrections by Tennyson. Finally, he added lines 6-28 to "The Passing of Arthur."

To conclude the Idylls volumes of the Library Edition, Tennyson decided to write an "Epilogue" addressed to Queen Victoria. This was already finished and "copied out" by Emily Tennyson on December 25, 1872 (Mem., II, 119). Extensive drafts for the "Epilogue" can be found in (MH-H-32), the Butcher's Book which contains so many "Gareth and Lynette" sketches. Tennyson's publishers set up an early printing of the poem in eight pages for presentation and had fifty copies printed. The Ashley Library has one, (L-A-2111). Tennyson sent his "Epilogue" to the Queen and she acknowledged the poem on February 26, 1873 (Wise, I, 224). The Library Edition volumes V and VI, which contain the Idylls, were published in 1873.

In 1874 two more editions of Tennyson's collected works appeared— the Cabinet Edition in ten volumes and the Author's Edition in six. (Wise, II, 33-37). Both contained a new text for "Merlin and Vivien," which included, for the first time, lines 6-146. Several manuscripts for this addition have survived. (MH-H-33) has sketches, some of which were afterwards abandoned. This manuscript also contains passages from "Balin and Balan"


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and illustrates Sir Charles Tennyson's contention that the "Vivien" alterations and "Balin", published so much later, were in fact products of the same creative period.[33] (MH-H-37), in the midst of further "Balin" sketches, has one page with a draft for lines 128-144 of "Merlin and Vivien." There are also two fairly complete drafts of the addition, both headed "The Beginning of Vivien" in the author's hand. The earlier, (MH-H-34), has many alterations, while the Yale Library (CtY-1) copy, purchased in 1949 from the library of Col. Prinsep, is quite fair and clearly is close to the first printing.

Further editions appeared through the next ten years, but gave no indication that Tennyson was at work on any further Idylls. Doubtless most readers considered the set complete. Then, in November of 1885 (Wise, I, 271), Tennyson published a collection of his later work called Tiresias, and Other Poems which included "Balin and Balan" subtitled in that edition, "An introduction to 'Merlin and Vivien.'" All the evidence seems to indicate that, in fact, this idyll was composed early in the 1870s, probably after "Gareth and Lynette" and was contemporaneous to the additions being made for "Merlin and Vivien."[34]

There are a number of quite early manuscripts relating to this idyll. (MH-H-37) contains fragments of prose sketches as well as verse. (MH-H-33) has very early drafts for passages around lines 246 and 455. (MH-H-32) has a large number of drafts, chiefly in the form of discrete blocks of poetry, covering lines 9-81, 150-192, 306-329, 386-391. (MH-H-47) contains only two pages of drafts for lines 430-457. The next creative stage is represented by the Huntington Library's (CSmH-HM-1323), a full draft of the poem, but with many alterations. (CT-31) is clearly a manuscript copy made up for the printer. It is a ruled notebook with manuscript on various pieces of paper glued in. Evidently the poet cut up a number of his fair drafts and glued them into this notebook for his typesetters.

There is one puzzle surrounding "Balin and Balan." Sir James Knowles, a close friend of the poet, gave Tennyson's son Hallam what he called a "prose sketch" for "Balin and Balan." Hallam printed it in both his Memoir of his father and in the annotated Eversley Edition of Tennyson's works. Since Knowles has said that Tennyson dictated the draft to him, we do not expect to find it in the Tennyson manuscripts. But, what we do find are short prose drafts other than the Knowles copy, and many verse fragments which appear to precede any prose draft. Sir Charles Tennyson concludes that these jottings "seem . . . to represent Tennyson's first thoughts . . . and to have been written before the composition of the prose sketch dictated to Knowles."[35] This sketch then becomes little more than a curiosity which played no organic part in the composition of the poem. On these grounds I have omitted it from this list.


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"Balin and Balan" was readily integrated with the rest of the Idylls of the King in the 1886 New Miniature Edition. Tennyson's life was now essentially complete. He worked on his last poems, helped his son and biographer prepare an annotated edition of his works, and reminisced. But in 1891 he instructed his son to insert one more line into the Epilogue to the Idylls (1. 38), describing Arthur as "Ideal manhood closed in real man." This was first published in the Edition Deluxe of 1899. In 1908 the Eversley Edition, with Tennyson's notes, was published, and the long period of the growth of the Idylls finally came to an end.