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Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir (1897), I, 381.


Letter to John Forster, 6 December 1854, The Letters of Emily Lady Tennyson, ed. James O. Hoge (1974), p. 70. Tennyson's wife is contradictory concerning the date of composition itself. In the letter to Forster, she refers to the poem as 'written yesterday' (5 December); but the entry in her Journal under 2 December confirms the son's date: 'A. wrote "The Charge of the Light Brigade" & sent it to The Examiner' (Lady Tennyson's Journal, ed. James O. Hoge [1981], p. 40). A letter from Tennyson to Forster with a postscript by his wife, also dated 6 December (printed below), establishes that he and his wife actually posted the poem to the Examiner on 6 December.


For a bibliographical description of this MS and the other MSS and proofs compared in this article, see the Bibliographical Note below.


This letter is in the Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln Public Library, Lincoln (abbreviated TRC). Hereafter the whereabouts of other unpublished letters will be given in the text. For permission to print from letters, MSS, and proofs, the authors are grateful to the Lord Tennyson, Mr. Richard Garnett, Mr. Robert H. Taylor, and the authorities of the Lincolnshire Library Services, Harvard University, The Johns Hopkins University, and Yale University. In printing letters, we observe exactly the orthography and punctuation (or lack of it) in the original (or in a typescript or printed text, when the MS original is not available), with the following exceptions: we regularly indent paragraphs, put postscripts at the end of the letter (regardless of where they actually appear), and separate without a stop the 'A' and the 'T' of Tennyson, which the poet often wrote together in his signature.


In the leader of 13 November, The Times had first said 'about 700 strong' and then later 'seven hundred'; in the second edition of 13 November and on 14 November, the special correspondent's report had given both '607 sabres' and a total of 607, while the leader of 14 November had spoken of 600. Working from recollection, the poet and his wife seem to have transposed the chronology of the numbers: she wrote to Forster concurrently with Tennyson on 6 December of the 'first report of The Times which gave the number as 605. He prefers "six hundred" on account of the metre but if you think it should be altered to 700 which from later accounts seems to have been the number he says you are to alter it' (The Letters of Emily Lady Tennyson, p. 70). Actually, 673 horsemen began the charge, according to E. L. Woodward; '113 were killed and 134 wounded; 475 of the horses were killed and 42 wounded' (The Age of Reform, 1815-1870 [1938; rpt. with corrections, 1946], p. 272.


MS4, in which none of the lines is indented from the left-hand margin, is a fair copy in Emily Tennyson's hand of MS3, a MS in her hand with emendations in the poet's. Presumably an additional MS is extant that seems to be a textual state slightly later than MS4 and coincident with the first proof (P1). It was lot 295 in the N. H. Lehman sale at the Union Galleries in New York, 17 April 1936; but its subsequent history and present whereabouts we have not been able to discover. For details concerning this MS, see the Bibliographical Note.


Emily Tennyson presumably had written separately to this effect in a letter now lost.


Forster's quoting 'muse of fire' (with 'ascend') from Henry V (Prologue: 'O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend | The brightest heaven of invention') calls up the fact that the Charge of the Light Brigade took place on the same day of the year, 25 October, as the Battle of Agincourt. In the discussion of the charge and of Tennyson's poem at the time, there seems to be no reference to this fact; but was Russell in The Times, 14 November, recalling 'band of brothers' when he wrote of the 'band of heroes'? And when The Times in a second leader of 13 November quoted 'those gentlemen of England who live at home at ease', was this coloured by Henry V's speech before Agincourt: 'and gentlemen in England, now a-bed'? The claims for Drayton's 'Ballad of Agincourt' as a source for Tennyson's poem (it was suggested at least as early as 1872: Richard Hooper, Notes and Queries, 4th ser., 10, 338) might gain some support from the coincidence of the battle-day; Tennyson denied the source (Eversley edition, II, 369), but one of Drayton's stanzas has as its arching rhyme 'wonder' | 'thunder'.


John O. Eidson, Tennyson in America (1943), pp. 144-145; Charles Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson (1949), p. 284; The Letters of Emily Lady Tennyson, p. 79, n. 1; Witter Bynner, The Sonnets of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1931), pp. 29-30; Samuel A. Golden, Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1966), p. 38.


Hallam Tennyson, Materials for a Life of A. T. (n. d.), II, 149.


This statement of itself might be construed as exonerating Tuckerman.


Edgar F. Shannon, Jr., 'The Critical Reception of Tennyson's Maud', PMLA, 68 (1953), 399, n. 14.


'Down' for 'up' and 'Oh' for 'O' are misquotations by Massey of the text in the Examiner, and he omits two of the last four lines.


Lady Tennyson's Journal (p. 54) records on 14 October, 'A letter from the Senior Chaplain (Crimea) asking for a thousand more copies of "The Charge."' The letter is printed in full in Materials, II, 111-113.


Memoir, I, 411. Willingham F. Rawnsley (in 'Personal Recollections of Tennyson—I', The Nineteenth Century and After, 97 [1925], 8) floated the canard: 'Ruskin, remonstrating and telling him that it was the key to the whole thing, got him to put it back'.


The proof copy of 'A New Edition' of Maud, and Other Poems, 1856, in the TRC has '[3rd ed]' written in pencil on the title page, and Thomas J. Wise (A Bibliography of the Writings of Alfred, Lord Tennyson [1908, rpt. 1967], I, 131-132), alleging that a second edition was published in 1855, designates the 1856 volume the third edition. In fact, it was the second. The publisher's numbering, when he abandoned 'A New Edition' and put 'Eleventh Edition' on the title page in 1866, was correct (not off by one as Wise asserts), though there were several printings of the first edition, and though the preliminary advertisements bound in some copies of the first edition are dated July and in others August. Maud, and Other Poems sold rapidly in the first four months after publication (by 24 November 1855 Moxon was advertising the 'Nineth Thousand'—Athenaeum, p. 1377); but a second edition was not required until the end of 1856, and Tennyson did not send Moxon the revised text for the second edition until 11 October 1856 (Lady Tennyson's Journal, p. 76). Details of the publishing history of the first edition are as follows. Moxon apparently first printed 3000 copies, but soon added another 2000, writing Mrs. Tennyson in a letter dated 'Monday', presumably 23 July 1855 (five days before publication on 28 July), '. . . as we have already received orders for upwards of 3000 copies of Maud, I have requested the Printers to strike off immediately 2000 copies more, and to keep the type standing' (TRC). On 1 August the Publishers' Circular (18, 305) announced that the booksellers had subscribed 'for upwards of 4000'. Next Moxon reported to Tennyson in a letter dated merely 'Saturday' that he had 'had 2000 copies more struck off of Maud and that we are now selling the sixth thousand' (TRC). This third printing raised the total figure to 7000 copies, and finally Moxon had to print additional copies that brought the edition to 10,000. In one of the later printings, perhaps by the third, Moxon had changed, as Mrs. Tennyson had directed by letter, two accidentals in 'Maud' and the colon to a semicolon in 1. 34 of 'The Charge', so that there was a second issue of the first edition. On 15 October the Publishers' Circular (18, 385) declared, 'Upwards of eight thousand copies of Tennyson's "Maud" have already been sold'. By the end of the year, as the publisher's account with the poet shows (TRC), 8517 had been sold and 62 review, author's, and complimentary copies had been distributed. In the first part of 1856 Moxon informed Tennyson, 'As we have still on hand 900 copies of Maud, we shall not, if I may judge by the sale for the last three months, require a new edition much before autumn' (TRC). In late May there was the discouraging word, 'We have I find still on hand upwards of 500 copies of Maud. . . . Business I am sorry to say is at present exceedingly dull and will not I fear be much better till winter' (TRC). Although on 20 December 1856, Moxon was still advertising the 'Tenth Thousand' (Athenaeum, p. 1560), his account for 1856 records 1421 copies sold by 31 December, which exactly exhausted the first edition. Moxon's advertisement on 10 October 1857 (Athenaeum, p. 1256) of Maud, and Other Poems, 'Second Edition' clearly rules out a second edition in 1855 and establishes that 'A New Edition', 1856, was the second edition.


See Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. and Christopher Ricks, 'A Further History of Tennyson's Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington', Studies in Bibliography, 32 (1979), 141-146.


In the discussion that follows, line references for early readings in the Historical Collation appear in square brackets; others are in parentheses. All numbers key to the authoritative text in the Eversley edition, Works, II (1908), from which final readings are quoted. For convenience, the entire poem in this text is printed below, after the Bibliographical Note and before the Historical Collation.


Cf. 'Plunged in the battery-smoke | Right thro' the line ['square' originally in MS6] they broke' (Historical Collation, 33).


Cf. '"There is the foe"' (Alterations in MSS, 6).


23 January 1855; Catalogue of the William Harris Arnold Collection, for sale November 10-11, 1924, Anderson Galleries, p. 227, and William Harris Arnold's Ventures in Book Collecting (1923), p. 247. See also Tennyson Research Bulletin, 2 (1973), 75, for a slightly variant text and the possibility of a different date [?29 January].


Contrast Henry V (IV, iii), before Agincourt:

Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words—
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester—
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.


Tennyson failed to capitalize 'death' [37] in MS3 and raised the lower case 'd', which he had first written, to a capital 'Death' (7, 16, 24) in MS6.


'Cossack and Russian' (34) did not appear in the text from MS1 through the Examiner and superseded (E1, P6, MS6-7—) 'the Russian line' [34, 35] (P6—55); and 'Cossack and Russian' owed something not only to the thrill of the word Cossack in English, but also to Russell in The Times: 'The ground was left covered with our men and with hundreds of Russians, and we could see the Cossacks busy searching the dead'.


Tennyson failed to capitalize 'Light', essential to its being felt as a name, in lines 5 and 9 in MS1-4,6 and in line 54 in MS3-4,6.


Tennyson briefly rescinded this repetition and replaced it with 'Honour the Light Brigade!' (MS3-4), but thought better of it in time for Forster to restore it in P3.


The charge, in more than one sense, is lacking from the Examiner's text: '"Take the guns," Nolan said' [6] (P1-E, E1-P6). (There were other accidental and substantive variants (MS1-4, P7, 55)). The Times (Russell) had: '"There are the enemy, and there are the guns, sir, before them; it is your duty to take them," or words to that effect, according to the statements made since his death'. 'Or words to that effect' is admirably honest in a war-reporter; inconceivable as applied to the words of a poem and their effect.


See Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Reason Why (1953), pp. 237-242.


A line that stood in place of lines 16-17 carried a 'they' in MS3-4, P2; and there was a 'they' in the last line of the poem in P7 and the Maud volume (1855).


'Those that had fought so well' [45] (MS1—E, E1—55, MS7) not only failed to manifest this simple supremacy of the pronoun 'They', but also might have implied an invidious distinction, as if 'Those that had fought so well' returned, and those others who did not return had perhaps not fought so well. 'They', because of its community and continuity with the ubiquitous 'they' of the poem, avoids this.


Although not perhaps so unfortunate as the earliest MS reading here (MS1), indebted to Russell in The Times, '"There is the foe" he said', to which the only answer would have been 'Tiens' or some Hotspur-like exasperation.


But 'our' is not so secure when Russell permits himself to say of the cannon-balls: 'Their flight was marked by instant gaps in our ranks'.


See also Emily Tennyson's postscript to the letter first sending Forster the poem, 6 Dec. 1854 (p. 4 above).


In The Times (leader, 14 November) 'under the eyes of the whole world', with no such reciprocity as Tennyson's repeated cohesive 'All'.


For variants involving the replacing of 'jaws' by 'valley', see Historical Collation, 4/5(1), 7; and for a 'Death' | 'Hell' variant (MS1), see Historical Collation, 24.


Materials, II, 113.


Paradise Lost, I, 303, for 'Vallombrosa' recalled in the landscape of Hell; and VI, 576-586, for the Satanic artillery, with its cannons' 'mouths' that 'belcht'.


'Take you the guns' and 'Take the guns' [6] instead of 'Charge . . .' persisted in the text until P7.


To mark a copy of the poem with coloured inks, to bring out the repetitions and filaments, is a revelation.


Variants affecting stanza disposition and indenting may be found throughout; see Historical Collation, 1-4, 2, 4, 4/5(2), 4/5(4), 8, 12, 16-17, 17, 21, 26, 31, 36, 37-38, 37, 38, 42, 49, 52, 55.


For some time 'turn'd' [37] (MS1-4, P2-3) instead of 'rode' (37) was a reading.


The line 'Tho' horse and hero fell' [22/23] had originally appeared in MS1 and MS3, and Tennyson had deleted it in MS3. In MS1 instead of ending in 'Death', line 24, as well as line 25, terminated in 'Hell'.


Tennyson may have been sensitive to this procession of numbers in The Times (leader, 13 November); 'Two great armies, composed of four nations, saw from the slopes of a vast amphitheatre seven hundred British cavalry proceed at a rapid pace'.


T. Wemyss Reid, The Life, Letters, and Friendships of Richard Monckton Milnes (1890), I, 512; 16 July 1855.


Stanzas I, II, III, and V all have two such lines without terminal punctuation; and VI, none. For the arrival at this circumstance in IV, see Historical Collation, 28, 32, 35, 37. Revisions affecting terminal punctuation may be found throughout the Historical Collation.


Audrey Tennyson, Hallam Tennyson's wife, noted that on 15 May 1890 at Farringford the poet 'said down the phonograph' 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' (Works, 10 vols. [London: Macmillan, 1884-93], II, 223, in TRC—Tennyson in Lincoln: A Catalogue of the Collections in the Research Centre, comp. Nancie Compbell, II [1973], 2: No. 3650). The modern recording is a 33 1/3 RPM disc (1969), issued by the Tennyson Society. See also Bennett Maxwell, 'The Steytler Recordings of Alfred Lord Tennyson: A History', Tennyson Research Bulletin, 3 (1980), 150-157.


The dramatic immediacy of 'knew' is the more inescapable when compared to the enfeebled transitional (rather than urgently transitive) 'which' of Tennyson's enjambement, earlier in the poem as first published: 'For up came an order which | Some one had blunder'd' [4/5(3)-(4)]. Cf. the 'as' of 'Then they rode back as | Before they rode onward' [37] (MS5-P6). This instance is possibly even worse than the 'which'.


Quoted in The Times (leader, 13 November). Woodham-Smith (The Reason Why, p. 247) attributes it to the French General Pierre Jean François Bosquet (1810-61).


Tennyson originally wrote 'Not their's to. . .', 'Not theirs to. . .' [13-14] in MS1. His improvement is a matter of the positive force then given to the negative concept; the military mission is not just that it is 'not theirs' to make reply or question why, but that it is positively 'theirs not' to do such things; as when it is said that if it is not your duty to do such-and-such, it may be your duty not to do it.


Emily Tennyson's inadvertent slip into 'do or die' [15] in MS3, Tennyson immediately corrected.


Tennyson originally wrote 'men & horses' before changing the reading to 'horse & hero' [22/23] (MS1).


Memoir, I, 388.


The adjectives 'desperate' [32/33] (MS1—E, E1) and 'strong' [34] (P7, 55), Tennyson did not retain.


'Scattered and broken' Russell wrote in The Times, but of the Brigade.


If 'wild' had not been qualified so, it could have been damaging (undisciplinedly wild?), as in Tennyson's second thought 'Wildly' [23] (MS2) for 'Boldly', in 'Boldly they rode and well' (23).