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Alfred Tennyson
by [?]

When he was disinherited in favor of his younger brother, a keen, nervous, forceful fellow, he accepted it as a matter of course. His career was planned for him: he “took orders,” married the young woman his folks selected, and slipped easily into his proper niche–his adipose serving as a buffer for his feelings. In his intellect there was no flash, and his insight into the heart of things was small.

Being happily married to a discreet woman who managed him without ever letting him be aware of it, and having a sure and sufficient income, and never knowing that he had a stomach, he did his clerical work (with the help of a curate), and lived out the measure of his days, no wiser at the last than he was at thirty.

In passing, we may call attention to the fact that the average man is a victim of Arrested Development, and that the fleeting years bring an increase of knowledge only in very exceptional cases. Health and prosperity are not pure blessings–a certain element of discontent is necessary to spur men on to a higher life.

The Reverend George Clayton Tennyson had income enough to meet his wants, but not enough to embarrass him with the responsibility of taking care of it. Each quarterly stipend was spent before it arrived, and the family lived on credit until another three months rolled around. They had roast beef as often as they wanted it; in the cellar were puncheons, kegs and barrels, and as there was no rent to pay nor landlords to appease, care sat lightly on the Rector.

Elizabeth, this man’s wife, is worthy of more than a passing note. She was the daughter of the Reverend Stephen Fytche, vicar of Louth. Her family was not so high in rank as the Tennysons, because the Tennysons belonged to the gentry. But she was intelligent, amiable, fairly good-looking, and being the daughter of a clergyman, had beyond doubt a knowledge of clerical needs; so it was thought she would make a good wife for the newly appointed incumbent of Somersby.

The parents arranged it, the young folks were willing, and so they were married–and the bridegroom was happy ever afterward.

And why shouldn’t he have been happy? Surely no man was ever blessed with a better wife! He had made a reach into the matrimonial grab-bag and drawn forth a jewel. This jewel was many-faceted. Without affectation or silly pride, the clergyman’s wife did the work that God sent her to do. The sense of duty was strong upon her. Babies came, once each two years, and in one case two in one year, and there was careful planning required to make the income reach, and to keep the household in order. Then she visited the poor and sick of the parish, and received the many visitors. And with it all she found time to read. Her mind was open and alert for all good things. I am not sure that she was so very happy, but no complaints escaped her. In all she bore twelve children–eight sons and four daughters. Ten of these children lived to be over seventy-five years of age. The fourth child that came to her they named Alfred.

* * * * *

Tennyson’s education in early youth was very slight. His father laid down rules and gave out lessons, but the strictness of discipline never lasted more than two days at a time. The children ran wild and roamed the woods of Lincolnshire in search of all the curious things that the woods hold in store for boys. The father occasionally made stern efforts to “correct” his sons. In the use of the birch he was ambidextrous. But I have noticed that in households where a strap hangs behind the kitchen-door, for ready use, it is not utilized so much for pure discipline as to ease the feelings of the parent. They say that expression is a need of the human heart; and I am also convinced that in many hearts there is a very strong desire at times to “thrash” some one. Who it is makes little difference, but children being helpless and the law giving us the right, we find gratification by falling upon them with straps, birch-rods, slippers, ferules, hairbrushes or apple-tree sprouts.