‘Confusion and Nonsense’: Tennyson and Clough

  • Mark Storey


When Bulwer-Lytton opined in 1838 that ‘when the multitude ceased to speak of Lord Byron, they ceased to speak about poetry itself’, it was not the satires he had in mind.1 Byron’s value, for those Victorians prepared to grant him any value at all, lay in his early work, in the posturings and self-communings of the Tales, of Manfred, of the passionate lyrics: the so-called Spasmodic poets discovered in such verse, once they had reduced it to manageable proportions, a model of how to cope with their own fevered imaginations. The over-riding concept of literature as a moral force would not allow many Victorians to nod their approval at Beppo or Don Juan (so blinkered was their idea of morality): the combination of Byron’s personal failings and laxities with verse that itself was not only lax but irreverently comic was sufficient deterrent.


Native Sweetness Sexual Imagery Poetic Tradition Passionate Lyric Short Poem 
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  1. 7.
    See John Killham, Tennyson and ‘The Princess’: Reflections of an Age (1958);Google Scholar
  2. Bernard Bergonzi, ‘Feminism and Femininity in The Princess’ in Isobel Armstrong (ed.), The Major Victorian Poets: Reconsiderations (1969), pp. 35–50.Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    R. G. Cox, ‘Victorian Criticism of Poetry: The Minority Tradition’, Scrutiny, XVIII (June, 1951 ), pp. 2–17.Google Scholar
  4. 29.
    Clough’s Self-Consciousness’, in Isobel Armstrong (ed.), The Major Victorian Poets: Reconsiderations (1969), p. 268.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mark Storey 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Storey
    • 1
  1. 1.BirminghamUK

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