Not of the sunlight,
Not of the moonlight,
Nor of the starlight!
O young Mariner,
Down to the haven,
Call your companions,
Launch your vessel,
And crowd your canvas,
And ere it vanishes
Over the margin,
After it, follow it,
Follow the Gleam.
The grandfather of Tennyson had two sons, the elder boy, according to Clement Scott, being “both wilful and commonplace.” Now, of course, the property and honors and titles, according to the law of England, would all gravitate to the commonplace boy; and the second son, who was competent, dutiful and worthy, would be out in the cold world–simply because he was accidentally born second and not first. It was not his fault that he was born second, and it was in no wise to the credit of the other that he was born first.
So the father, seeing that the elder boy had small executive capacity, and no appreciation of a Good Thing, disinherited him, giving him, however, a generous allowance, but letting the titles go to the second boy, who was bright and brave and withal a right manly fellow.
Personally, I’m glad the honors went to the best man. But Hallam Tennyson, son of the poet, sees only rank injustice in the action of his ancestor, who deliberately set his own opinion of right and justice against precedent as embodied in English Law. As a matter of strictest justice, we might argue that neither boy was entitled to anything which he had not earned, and that, in dividing the property between them, instead of allowing it all to drift into the hands of the one accidentally born first, the father acted wisely and well.
But neither Alfred nor Hallam Tennyson thought so. How much their opinions were biased by the fact that they were descendants of the firstborn son, we can not say. Anyway, the descendants of the second son, the Honorable Charles Tennyson d’Eyncourt, have made no protest of which I can learn, about justice having been defeated.
Considering this subject of the Law of Entail one step further, we find that Hallam, the present Lord Tennyson, is a Peer of the Realm simply because his father was a great poet, and honors were given him on that account by the Queen. These honors go to Hallam, who, as all men agree, is in many ways singularly like his grandfather.
Genius is not hereditary, but titles are. Hallam is eminently pleased with the English Law of Entail, save that he questions whether any father has the divine right to divert his titles and wealth from the eldest son. Lord Hallam’s arguments are earnest and well expressed, but they seem to show that he is lacking in what Herbert Spencer calls the “value sense”–in other words, the sense of humor.
Hallam’s lack of perspective is further demonstrated by his patient efforts to explain who the various Tennysons were. In my boyhood days I thought there was but one Tennyson. On reading Hallam’s book, however, one would think there were dozens of them. To keep these various men, bearing one name, from being confused in the mind of the reader, is quite a task; and to better identify one particular Tennyson, Hallam always refers to him as “Father,” or “My Father.” In the course of a recent interview with W.H. Seward, of Auburn, New York, I was impressed by his dignified, respectful, and affectionate references to “Seward.” “This belonged to Seward,” and “Seward told me”–as though there were but one. In these pages I will speak of Tennyson–there has been but one–there will never be another.
* * * * *
I think Clement Scott is a little severe in his estimate of the character of Tennyson’s father, although the main facts are doubtless as he states them. The Reverend George Clayton Tennyson, Rector of Somersby and Wood Enderby parishes, was a typical English parson. As a boy he was simply big, fat and lazy. His health was so perfect that it overtopped all ambition, and having no nerves to speak of, his sensibilities were very slight.