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Considering the sensual explicitness of "Lucretius," its reception in England was remarkably favorable. Benjamin Jowett wrote Emily Tennyson, "I thought 'Lucretius' a most noble poem, and that is the universal impression," though as Masson had predicted, the poem did "not pass without" some "yelping on various sides" (Memoir, II, 55; Buckler, p. 270, and Letters to Macmillan, p. 115). Macmillan, true to his promise to stop its being plundered in Great Britain, printed a prefatory note


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declaring that extracts to indicate the character of the new work "must be confined to moderate length, and that the reproduction of either the whole or the major part of 'Lucretius' will be an infringement of the law of copyright . . . and not needed for the legitimate purposes of criticism." This note, which does not appear in the bound volume of Macmillan's, was quoted in its entirety in Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (May 10, p. 8). Lloyd's, while referring to "Lucretius" as "a high utterance of . . . [the poet's] genius," took vehement exception to Macmillan's prohibition of lengthy extracts and refused, as a consequence, to make any quotation from the poem—"we will take not a single hair from the tail of their expensive Pegasus." The daily Sun, in a survey of the magazines for the month of May, also alluded to this deterrent, remarking that the proprietors of Macmillan's "seem especially jealous" of the poem, and said that it was not in Tennyson's "happiest vein" (May 1, p. [3]). The Globe and Traveller, an evening paper, in noticing the magazines on May 5, said that "Lucretius" was "almost worthy of Mr. Robert Browning" (p. [1]). The Sunday Times, on May 10, found the ending abrupt and the poem "disfigured with such stupid periphrases as 'hired animalisms,' and such ill-chosen expressions as the term 'apple-arbiter,' which is applied to Paris" (p. 7). Two religious periodicals, the Literary World (a monthly supplement to the Christian World) for May 15 and the Christian Observer for June, deplored Tennyson's choice of subject matter (I, 42) and the sight of "the first poet of this Christian land" conveying "the benighted sentiments of a heathen philosopher pleading for self-destruction" (pp. 467-471). In contrast to these scattered notes of disparagement, there was a chorus of praise for the artistry of the poem and the distinction of its blank verse—even the Literary World admired "the workmanship" of the monologue and the Christian Observer alluded to its "majestic verse."

The first review to appear, on April 29 in the Pall Mall Gazette, an evening daily of high literary repute, owned by George Murray Smith and edited by Frederick Greenwood, set the prevailing tone of adulation (pp. 11-12).[35] Its writer ridiculed the false gentility of those who thought Tennyson should be above publishing in magazines and reminded readers that "Tithonus"—one of the finest pieces of Tennyson's art, to which


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"Lucretius" was in every way comparable—had been published in the Cornhill. In treating the subject, the poet had avoided the imaginative "splendours" that Robert Lytton (first Earl of Lytton [1831-1891], who wrote under the nom de plume "Owen Meredith") might have lavished on Lucilia and the excesses that would have been typical of Swinburne, "not out of squeamishness simply, but because he chose to be faithful to his work rather than splendid in it." He had succeeded in writing of eroticism and animal passion "so that not even the most feverish libertine might find a line for his enjoyment" or anything to tickle a "prurient fancy."

On Saturday, May 2, four laudatory reviews appeared in weekly journals. The Imperial Review reported "Lucretius" to be "in every way worthy of the author of In Memoriam and the Idylls of the King" and of equal rank with those "exquisite" poems "Œnone" and "Tithonus" (3, 413-414). The Inquirer wrote of the poem, "It is one of the finest bits of blank verse that . . . [Tennyson] has ever written, and may be compared with his well-known 'Tithonus' . . ." (27, 277). In a detailed critique of the poem the London Review and Weekly Journal referred to "Lucretius" as "a very beautiful work of art," a "striking and impressive poem" (16, 429); and the Spectator, now exerting renewed influence under the joint editorship of Richard Holt Hutton and Meredith Townsend, devoted a "middle article" to what it considered "a grand poem, which will live with Mr. Tennyson's finest creations" (41, 523-524).[36] The next Saturday, May 9, Macmillan quoted a brief extract from each of these reviews in an advertisement in the Athenaeum (59, 676), presumably not "vulgar" advertising, and four more weeklies—the Examiner (p. 296), the Illustrated London News (52, 471), the Illustrated Times (12, 346),[37] and Punch (54,205)—assessed the poem favorably. Punch's humorous questionnaire on the new work, in order for diners-out to be prepared to discuss it at dinner-parties, testifies to the wide-spread attention "Lucretius" was attracting.

On Monday Macmillan directed this letter to the poet's wife:

May 11, 1868
My dear Mrs Tennyson,

I hope I am not boring you in sending notices that appear in the papers about "Lucretius." It is a habit we have in regard to our books generally, but some authors—I


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dont blame them—dislike all these pattings on the head, or slappings in the face from men whose praise or blame often is equally worthless. The Pall Mall, Spectator & Punch are about the best.

Would Mr Tennyson care to look at Mr Jebbs article on the poem & the subject? It seems to me very delicately done.

I hope you are all well, and that the mild gai[e]ties of Clapham have not disturbed him.[38]

With kindest regards to the Poet & the boys.

Yours very faithfully
Alex Macmillan. (Add. MSS. 55388(1), fol. 340)

She replied the next day:

Farringford, Freshwater, Isle of Wight.
May 12th 1868
Dear Mr Macmillan,

It is very kind in you sending the favourable reviews. Unless there be anything you particularly wish him to see perhaps he has now seen enough *when he has seen the Jebb you mention [interlined]. Those three you name are decidedly the best, I think. "The Nation", the most impertinent *I have seen as a whole [interlined] I have fortunately been able to hide from him The beginning of the Cosmopolitan, equally impertinent, he saw. . . .[39]


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[P.S.] He seems to enjoy his Clapham visits, thank you.

We shall be very anxious to know that you are not a loser by Lucretius (Add. MSS. 54986, fols. 213-214).

On the same day that Macmillan wrote to Mrs. Tennyson, The Times issued a resounding encomium by Eneas Sweetland Dallas, who declared "Lucretius" to be "a poem of such power as to demand a notice"—recognition that The Times did "not usually accord to works issued" in a magazine (May 11, p. 12).[40] For him it was "a magnificent piece"; and as if to answer the London Review, which had complained of "'experiments' in versification" in such lines as 30, 40, 53, and 126,[41] he exalted Tennyson as "unapproachable since Milton" for "the melody" of his verse. "To whom, if not to such a man," Dallas demanded, "are we to allow the liberty of altering the rhythm of blank verse?"

Two days later, May 13, the weekly Guardian, in an extended commentary continued the panegyrical strain (23, 564); and by May 20, the Nonconformist could announce, "Tennyson's Lucretius has more than sustained its great reputation. The last number of Macmillan's Magazine has already reached a third edition in consequence of its appearance" (p. 511)—the answer to Emily's fears that Macmillan might lose financially on the poem.

At the end of the month, by a letter dated May 29, Macmillan was able to inform Jebb,

I was with Tennyson last Sunday [May 24]. He asked particularly about your article & I chanced to have a proof in my bag so I gave it him. He liked it & said it told him at least one thing he could not remember—where the story of Picus & Faunus is to be found [Ovid's Fasti] (Add. MSS. 55388(1), fol. 399).
Jebb's purpose, in his signed piece in Macmillan's for June, was to demonstrate the "historical truth" of Tennyson's Lucretius as a value of the work going beyond its simply artistic quality (18, [97]-103). Not that one had to have read De Rerum Natura "in order to enjoy" the poem; but the Laureate had "been very successful in reproducing that impression of Lucretius which is derived from the Latin . . . not by direct imitation or allusion; not by the painting of particular striking traits; but by a force of imaginative sympathy which seizes and represents their result."

Tinsley's Magazine for July gave "Lucretius" further critical approbation: it would "rank among the best" of Tennyson's poems (2, 611-616). His treatment was severe and "chaste," compared to "the pruriency" that might have been expected from Swinburne.


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Finally, in October, the Methodist London Quarterly Review, after extolling the poet as "a well-versed psychologist" and "a consummate artist," applauded the blank verse as "of the finest and richest quality that Mr. Tennyson has produced . . ." (31, 249-254). Furthermore, he was heartily to be congratulated—"at a time when Swinburne is read and apparently relished"—that "the moralist can find no weak or erring point in Lucretius." The London Quarterly Review, however, provided in a footnote the full version of the Oread from a Canadian edition to indicate the "narrow escape" that English readers had had from "a very considerable blemish," to which Americans had been subjected. This reviewer also singled out one line for objection: "Poor little life that toddles half an hour" (228), in which he found the idea dramatically sound "but the expression 'toddles half an hour' . . . too trivial and inelegant for propriety in so austere and grand an entourage."

Despite Tennyson's recognized sensitivity to criticism, when he republished "Lucretius" in the Holy Grail and Other Poems (1870), issued in December, 1869, he ignored all such strictures on lines or phrases; and in the face of the London Quarterly Review (though one cannot be certain that he saw it), he restored to the text the complete description of the Oread. A significant substantive change in the last line of the poem—in part a return to the reading of MS2 through P3—suggests, however, that he may have taken into account the commentary of this critic, who regretted Lucilia's reappearance, and after quoting the passage describing it, wrote as follows:

This is lamentably prosaic and out of place: and having once fallen out of the lofty vein of thought and expression antecendently characteristic of the poem, Mr. Tennyson appears to have been incapable of rising again to the exigencies of the occasion when the speech is given to Lucretius once more; for, when the dying lips are again unlocked, it is only to utter the poor trite words— "Care not thou!
What matters? All is over: fare thee well!"
Tennyson, to be sure, did not dispense with Lucilia, but Lucretius' biddings to her lacked direct pertinence to the theme and were indeed rather banal. Grove also had expressed a preference for the earlier language of the last line: "What matters? What is duty? Fare thee well!"[42] By re-introducing the idea of duty—which Lucretius echoes from Lucilia's berating herself for "having fail'd in duty to him" (277)—and by intensifying it in the final text ("Thy duty? What is duty? Fare thee well!") Tennyson both increased the dramatic interplay between Lucretius


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and his wife (which had become flaccid in the previous reading) and preserved to the very end the poem's ironic emphasis on spiritual values.

Afterward, there would be further polishing of accidentals; and a change of "And" to "That" (261) occurred in the Eversley Edition.[43] But with the felicitous stroke in the concluding line, seemingly slight yet quite consequential, the poet essentially completed the involved process of fashioning "Lucretius."