Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/214

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STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

phenomenon' than the Knights of the Round Table. This is only, as he explains, one of c old Fitz's crotchets' (and it may be said incidentally that FitzGerald's letters, crotchety or not, are among the best things in these volumes). Mr. Ruskin, on the appearance of the first Idylls, puts virtually the same point in more formal language. He thinks that 'the true task of the modern poet' should be to 'give the intense, masterful, and unerring transcript of an actuality.' He is not sure, he confesses, that he does not 'feel the art and finish in these poems a little more than he likes to feel it.' Upon this Lord Tennyson makes an interesting remark. The Idylls, he tells us, were not carefully elaborated. '"Guinevere" and "Elaine" were each written in a few weeks, and hardly corrected at all.' The poet, of course, had been long brooding over them; and many phrases had come to him from accidental suggestions, and gone through a slow incubation; but the actual execution was rapid. This, however, does not quite meet the criticism. It is not a question, I fancy, of the elaboration of the language, but of the vividness and spontaneity of the thought to be elaborated. The art becomes obvious, because Tennyson seems not so much to