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Alfred Tennyson's 1866 edition of Maud and Other Poems, published by Edward Moxen and Co.

Introduction


Maud and Other Poems was the first volume of poetry produced by Alfred Tennyson after being appointed poet laureate by Queen Victoria in 1850. Between the book’s initial publication in 1855, and up until Tennyson’s death in October of 1892, the collection was republished more than 80 times by printing companies based in both Britain and the United States (World Cat)—the high frequency of publication suggests the book was well-received and popular amongst audiences in both countries. This popularity, however, was inconsistent, and the collection initially struggled with harsh reviews in the years that followed its first publication. Tennyson wrote to Dr. Robert Mann on the volume’s reception that he had been “half-deafened with the abuse of anonymous, therefore irresponsible writers” (Barton, 81). Although anonymity in authorship had been in the decline at this point (Maurer, 1), most critics in editorials and newspapers still adhered to a so-called tradition of "unsigned reviews" (Maurer, 1). These "unsigned reviews" made it difficult for Tennyson to respond to his critics (Barton 81), as evidenced in another letter to Dr. Mann in which he claimed that “we shall never have a good school of criticism in England while the writer is anonymous and irresponsible” (Tennyson, 127). Tennyson’s decision to newly-author the book as “Alfred Tennyson, D.C.L, Poet Laureate” had also incited caustic reviews from critics such as Gladstone who accused the poet of portraying himself in a haughty manner (Barton, 81).

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The engraving on the front cover of the book.

This particular edition of the book was published in 1866 by Edward Moxen and Co., one of the few printing companies willing to publish poetry in light of the emerging popularity of the novel, which had been made increasingly accessible to Victorians through the establishment of lending libraries (Ermarth, 33). The book’s bindings are green in nature, and its cover features an engraved symbol resembling that of a sun adorned with small leaves. With measurements of 4.5” by 7” (11.43 cm by 17.78 cm), the book itself would have been small enough to put in the pocket of a trenchcoat, making it relatively portable.

The decision to publish the book in such a small size would have been made with the intent of capitalizing upon the growing rates of literacy in the period, as by the 1850s, literacy was understood by Victorians to be desirable across all classes—the ideal servants were expected to be literate (Fernandez, 1). The small size of these books also meant that they required less ink and paper to be printed, making them affordable for both the seller and the buyer. Indeed, Sotheran's Price Current of Literature lists the 1855 edition of Maud and Other Poems as having been sold for 15 shillings (65), making it possible for the book to be purchased by the lower classes, and thus contributing to its consumption on a mass scale. The book does not contain biographical or contextual information in addition to the poems—the book exists simply as a compilation of some of Tennyson’s most current works of the time. Among some of the most notable works in the collection, the book features the poems “Maud” and “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, as well as some of his lesser-known works such as “The Letters”, “The Brook” and “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington” (for a complete list of poems included, see bottom).

Notable Works


"Maud"
When first published under a column of the 1855 edition of the British Quarterly Review, the poem "Maud" was initially met with scathing reviews, but quickly gained popularity after the verses were transcribed into the Victorian parlour song "Come into the Garden, Maud" (1857) by the Irish composer Michael Balfe, who did so upon the recommendation of John Boosey (Scott, 127; Swafford)the bookshop owner whose sons would later found the music publishing company Boosey & Hawkes (Scott, 127; Swafford). One of Tennyson's most controversial poems, critics complained of the poem's irregular rhythm, which was likened to the "rasping of a blacksmith's file" (Black et. al, 633). The poem is divided into three parts and chronicles the fictional relationship between the narrator and a woman named “Maud”, ending with the narrator's participation in the Crimean War following the death of Maud. Of the 170 page volume, "Maud" spans a staggering 115 pages—a breadth which, along with its reference in the collection's title, lends credence to the idea that the poem was intended to be the centerpiece of his compilation.

"The Charge of the Light Brigade"
One of Tennyson’s more popular poems, the Charge of the Light Brigade was written in commemoration of a fallen British cavalry unit during the Crimean War. The poem was seen as a response to the initial report of the slaughter detailed in the Times on 25 October, 1854, and was first published in The Examiner magazine on 9 December 1854 (Royal Collection). Under the command of Lord Cardigan, a force of approximately 670 soldiers (Times, 6) charged what was thought to be an exposed Russian artillery unit in the valley between Fedyukhin Heights and Causeway Heights (Times, 6). Upon reaching the valley, the British were shocked to find that it had been heavily reinforced by Russian artillery and gun units on all sides, and the unit was decimated under the crossfire (Times, 6). The event was glorified in British newspapers as an act of daring heroism and patriotism—sentiments echoed in the concluding lines “Honour the charge they made! / Honour the Light Brigade” (Tennyson, 170) of Tennyson’s poem. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is the poem’s use of repetition, which functions in various ways. The repetition of the lines “Cannon to right of them / Cannon to left of them / Cannon to front of them” (Tennyson, 168-9) in two different stanzas creates an atmosphere of constraint and entrapment, serving to illustrate the hopelessness of the soldiers’ plight. The poem also uses the repetition of the image of “The Valley of Death” in order to draw attention to the destruction and carnage of war—a concept that many British citizens had been relatively sheltered from.

Complete List of Works Included in Maud and Other Poems

  1. "Maud"
  2. "The Brook"
  3. "The Letters"
  4. "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington"
  5. "The Daisy"
  6. "To The Rev F.D. Maurice"
  7. "Will"
  8. "The Charge of the Light Brigade"

--N.T.


Works Cited
Barton, Anna. Tennyson's Name: Identity and Responsibility in the Poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson. England: Ashgate, 2008. Print.
Black, Joseph Laurence et. al. The Broadview Anthology of British Literature. 2nd ed. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2009. Print.
Ermarth, Elizabeth Deeds. The English Novel in History, 1840-1895. New York; London: Routledge, 1997. Web. http://www.tandfebooks.com.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/isbn/9780203132135
Royal Collection Trust. Maud and Other Poems--Description. https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/1085063/maud-and-other-poems
Fernandez, Jean. Victorian Servants, Class, and the Politics of Literacy. 2;2.; Vol. New York: Routledge, 2010. Web
Maurer, Oscar. "Anonymity Vs. Signature in Victorian Reviewing." Studies in English 27 (1948): 1-27. Web.
Scott, Derek B. The Singing Bourgeois: Songs of the Victorian Drawing Room and Parlour. Philadelphia; Milton Keynes, England: Open University Press, 1989. Print.
Sotheran, Ltd. Sotheran's Price Current of Literature. H Sotheran & Co: London, 1892. Web. Print.
Swafford, Joanna. Obsession and Instability in Tennyson's Maud. Web. http://www.songsofthevictorians.com/tennyson/analysis.html
Tennyson, Alfred. “Alfred Tennyson to Robert Mann, September 1855”. Letters, vol. 2, p.127. Web.
Tennyson, Alfred. Maud, and Other Poems. 12th ed. London: E. Moxon, 1866. Print. Uvic Library, PR5567.
The Times. 13 Nov. 1854: 6. British Library Archive. Web. Accessed 21 Mar 2016. http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/times-editorial-piece-on-the-charge-of-the-light-brigade
World Cat Library Database. http://www.worldcat.org




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