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This little volume is put forth with the hope that it may help students in our schools and colleges and readers in general better to understand and more fully to enjoy what may be regarded as the great Laureate's masterpiece. For many reasons "In Memoriam" is hard to understand. The great number of personal allusions which it contains, the abstruseness of much of its thought, and the terseness of the language employed unite to make it difficult. In addition to this, most readers persist in regarding it as a series of disconnected poems when, as a matter of fact, it cannot be understood at all unless it is understood as a whole. The aim of the present edition is, therefore, to unify, to simplify, and to clarify. It is hoped that the division into cycles and sections may materially assist in unifying the poem, that the marginal headings will help to simplify and clarify, and that the notes will help in all three ways.
No attempt has been made to weigh down the notes with miscellaneous learning. I have, however, endeavored to explain all personal allusions, and in general all words and references which seem likely to be unfamiliar to the ordinary reader; to untangle cases of involved grammatical construction; to paraphrase difficult phrases or sentences; to quote passages from other authors with which the poet apparently presupposes familiarity, or which throw light on the thought or phraseology; and, above all, to make Tennyson his own interpreter by quoting from his other poems or his reported notes and conversations passages elucidating
or emphasizing what he says in “In Memoriam." In every case the notes are such as I have found practically useful in my own class-room.
I have made no attempt to note all the slight verbal changes which the poet made in the successive editions of the poem. They are sixty-two in number, most of them insignificant, and have been many times collated. In this omission I feel that I am quite in accord with the wishes of the poet himself, of whom his son observes: "He 'gave the people of his best,' and he usually wished that his best should remain without variorum readings, 'the chips of the work-shop,' as he called them." In only a few cases where the change is really significant, especially when the poet himself commented on it, have I departed from this rule and made a note of the change.
To former editions of "In Memoriam" and to many critics on both sides of the Atlantic every new editor must necessarily be indebted. Especially great is the debt which every student of Tennyson, the world over, owes to the beautiful memoir of the poet by his son. It is a treasurehouse of interesting and valuable information, and one of the most satisfactory biographies ever written. My obligations to this and to various other books and magazine articles are duly acknowledged in the notes.
The preparation of this little volume has been a labor of love. Begun nearly ten years ago, and gone over year after year in connection with my classes in the literature of the nineteenth century, it has at last assumed a form which, it is hoped, may help a larger circle to appreciate one of the most beautiful as it is one of the most thoughtful and inspiring poems of modern times. V. P. S.
University, North Dakota,
September 27, 1906.