This essay om Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Lord Tennyson was first published in Symbiosis: a Journal of Anglo-American Literary Relations 56-75.
Topics and Keywords
Emily Dickinson; Walt Whitman; Alfred Tennyson; 'Locksley Hall'; 'Her last Poems'; Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Dickinson's prosody; verse libre, free verse and metre
This essay on the relationship between Emily Dickinson and Lord Tennyson proves beyond reasonable doubt that Dickinson chose to write her elegy for Elizabeth Barratt Browning (‘her “Last Poems”’) in the unique metre of the most popular poem of the age, Tennyson’s ‘Locksley Hall’, a measure which Barratt herself had imitated and which, more to the point, had mesmerised a large number of mid-century American poets. Dickinson disguised this borrowing very deftly indeed; so deftly that some critics have imagined that she was writing free verse. A sub-plot of the essay deals with the equally fascinating matter of Walt Whitman’s fascination with Tennyson’s measures, and the little understood metrical basis some of his ‘vers libre’. As T. S. Eliot pointed out, vers libre (which he and Whitman both wrote) is not at all the same thing as free verse.
Tennyson and Whitman
The Music of 'Locklsey Hall'
Dickinson's Tribute to E. B. Browning's Last Poems
About the author
Richard Gravil is author of Romantic Dialogues: Anglo-American Continuities, 1776-1862 (2000) and Wordsworth's Bardic Vocation, 1787-1842 (2003) and Wordsworth and Helen Maria Williams; or, the Perils of Sensibility (2010). He is Secretary of the Wordsworth Conference Foundation and Director of the Wordsworth Summer Conference and Winter School.