TENNYSON, Alfred, 1st Baron (1809-1892) -- MILTON, John (1608-1674). The Poetical Works, revised from the text of Thomas Newton. London: George Routledge, 1866.
8° (169 x 101mm). 8 wood-engraved plates. Original green cloth (inner hinges split), green cloth case. Provenance: Alfred Tennyson (with his annotations to Paradise Lost in ink, pencil and pencil over-written in ink, many passages and also individual phrases or words marked by underlining and scoring, further notes on front endpapers) -- Hallam Tennyson (ink signature on verso of front free endpaper and inscription in pencil: 'My father's favourite passages marked with remarks by him') -- purchased from William Robinson, London, 9 December 1938, £5.
TENNYSON'S ANNOTATED COPY OF MILTON'S EPIC POEM, ALSO NOTING HIS VIEW OF SHELLEY on front free endpaper. Hallam Tennyson records being given a 'talk' by his father on Paradise Lost when a schoolboy at Marlborough, the substance of which he records in the appendix to his biography (II, pp. 518-523). He left for his first term at Marlborough on 20 January 1866 which is, significantly, the year this edition was published. Some of the remarks which are recorded in Hallam's appendix correspond so exactly with his father's annotations to justify a description of the latter as an undisclosed aide-memoire. Though not all the recorded remarks appear as annotations, and equally Hallam has made omissions. Many passages are marked 'fine,' or scored with epithets such as 'lovely,' 'splendid,' 'mighty language.'
In Bk I, against Heaven's plan to let Satan 'Heap on himself damnation,' Tennyson writes: 'I hope most of us have a higher idea in these modern times of the Almighty than this' (l. 215). The phrase 'Pendent by subtle magic' (l. 727) draws the comment, 'I always like this, it is so mystical.' Both reflections are recorded in Hallam Tennyson's appendix. But not the comment on ll. 162-165, where Satan vows to oppose God by bringing forth evil from good. Here Tennyson defines one source of social evil as: '(the charters coming from the wretched Angevin kings & the Georges).' His view that, in the closing lines of Book I, Milton's poem 'rises to heights of sublimity' is also omitted by Hallam.
Above the line 'over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive (II, 409), describing Satan's journey, Tennyson writes: 'Arrive at last the blesséd goal In Memoriam 83,' perhaps a suggestion that a long journey's end is a common point of dramatic climax in the two poems. Hallam makes no mention of this nor of Tennyson's observation that Satan's abilities as a monarch (II, 467) show 'Milton a diplomatist.' But Tennyson's other notes on Bk II, ll. 129-145 ('enormous pauses'), 612-628 ('Milton's vague Hell much more awful than Dante's marked off Hell'), 635-643 (with their 'vast' simile), and 647-657 (Milton's picture of sin -- 'beautiful at first; hideous aftewards') are recorded.
A number of obsolete or unfamiliar words in Bk III are explained. In Bk IV, Tennyson's observations on ll. 156-157 now being a commonplace of style are in the appendix, as is his dislike of Milton's lines about 'the spouse of Tobit's son' (169-170: 'Beastly! I hate this!).' The line 'At one slight bound high overleaped all bound' (181) is 'A poor pun.' The simile of Satan as the 'first grand thief' climbing 'into God's fold' (IV, ll. 189-192) is one which Tennyson says 'I do not object to as some do.' Both comments are unrecorded, as is Tennyson's pleasure in the four lines describing the 'youthful dalliance' of Adam and Eve (337-340): 'Beautiful picture,' he writes. The scored passage on the flowers of Paradise and 'Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm' (ll. 241-256) is one which Hallam recalls being quoted to him. While Tennyson's admiration for the lines 'in the ascending scale Of Heaven, the stars that usher evening rose' (354-355) is also noted in the appendix, it is evocative to see these lines inscribed in his hand on the front endpaper of this volume. Tennyson's admiration for the simile in ll. 814-819 is likewise noted by Hallam.
Two comments on early passages in Bk V are unrecorded. Tennyson is aware that in writing of Adam and Eve's 'cordial love' (l. 170), Milton is dealing with a 'different sense now.' He asks the question 'why did they drink with such luscious fruit [to eat]?' (l. 266). The comment 'French cook' against the line 'Taste after taste upheld with kindliest change' (336) is explained by Hallam's statement: 'my father would humorously quote [it] of the French cooks abroad.' There is a line (396) of 'terrible bathos,' and a digestive system which can 'corporeal to incorporeal turn' (l. 413) is 'impossible metaphysics certainly.' The lines towards the end of Bk V, describing Satan and his host moving to his royal seat (746-759), inspire an admiration that Hallam Tennyson has again recorded. 'What imagination the old man had!' writes Tennyson in almost schoolboyish vein, 'Milton beats anyone in the material sublime.' However, among Hallam Tennyson's omissions are his father's admiration for the lines beginning 'So from the root/Springs lighter the green stalk' (479-482). 'I quite agree' is Tennyson's comment on Milton's doctrine of free will (ll. 527-535). Milton's idea of the 'starry sphere of planets ... regular ... when most irregular they seem' (ll. 620-25) is deemed 'Quite right tho' Milton did not know of Ptolemaic system.' 'In pearl, in diamond, and massy gold/Fruit of delicious vines, the growth of Heaven' (634-635) are 'delicious' lines showing that 'Milton the puritan must have been a sensualist too' (a comment recorded by Hallam Tennyson but with more qualification). 'A Touch of metre' is discerned in the half line 'Through the infinite host' (874), and the final paragraph twice draws underlining and the interjection: 'Fine,' 'Fine.'
In Bk VI, Wordworth's admiration for the phrase 'far off his coming shone' (l. 768), describing the Messiah, is noted by Tennyson and recorded in the appendix. In Bk VII the divine command, '"Silence, ye troubled waves! and thou deep, peace!"' (VII, 216) draws the observation from Tennyson 'magnificent line how much finer than "billows" the proper scansion this break is! & the alliteration too "deep peace"!' -- another remark too good for Hallam Tennyson to omit. Although there are two interrogatives in Bk VII, there are far more commendations, and the lines 'Among the trees in pairs they rose, they walked:/The cattle in the fields and meadows green' (459-460) are deemed 'very pretty.'
Hallam Tennyson records his father's comment that the first three lines of Bk VIII are 'beautifully expressed,' but not his observation that 'Milton is hazy in his astronomy and so is the angel,' made in response to the notion that the earth 'spinning sleeps/On her soft axle' (VIII, 164-165). Raphael's observation to Adam that Eve 'sees when thou art seen least wise' (VIII, l. 578) makes Tennyson ask: 'What does this mean?'
In Bk IX Tennyson finds that ll. 385-87 'would not do for modern taste.' The approach of the serpent towards Eve (IX, ll. 497-500) leads Tennyson to pencil in the upper margin: 'Woman's walls are made of honey.' Neither remark is transcribed by Hallam Tennyson. Although numerous passages have been scored in the last two books, there is only one minor annotation (XII, l. 3).
Among Tennyson's notes on the front pastedown is one of an address at 22 Gloucester Grove West, South Kensington. On the adjacent free endpaper, he has not only included a quotation from Paradise Lost but a 3-line quote from Coleridge's Wallenstein, and recorded a pithy view of Shelley: 'I like Shelley's "Alastor" and "I arise" best of his: his small things are exquisite. I do not care for Queen Mab: Southeyish & horrid.' Regarding other poems in the volume, one passage in Bk II of Paradise Regained (ll. 338-347), and line 56 in Bk III ('Of whom to be dispraised were no small praise') are scored. There is one ink annnotation at the head of Samson Agonistes, and several passages from the drama are scored in pencil. But without question, Paradise Lost is the poem to preoccupy and fascinate Tennyson whose own highly-sensitive ear made him uniquely qualified to appreciate Milton's genius.