restricted access Tennyson and Whitman. To the Editor of The Nation and Athenaeum
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110 ] Tennyson and Whitman To the Editor of The Nation and Athenaeum The Nation and Athenaeum, 41 (4 June 1927) 302 [Mr. T. S. Eliot writes:] Mr. McNulty expresses surprise at my comparison of Whitman and Tennyson.1 May I assure him that I intended this comparison to be quite serious; and if he will look back at the earlier number of The Nation in which I reviewed a recent biography of Whitman, he will see that I have made the same assertion at more length.2 I would remind him first of Whitman’s almost boundless admiration for Tennyson, and second IwouldsayagainthatWhitman’sandTennyson’srespectiveattitudestoward the society which they inhabited are closely parallel. I quite agree that Tennyson’s verse is “perfect”; but I would assert that Whitman’s gifts were of exactly the same kind. He was, in my opinion, a great master of versification , though much less reliable than Tennyson. It is, in fact, as a verse maker that he deserves to be remembered; for his intellect was decidedly inferior to that of Tennyson. His political, social, religious, and moral ideas are negligible. [T. S. Eliot] Notes 1. Brackets in original. J. H. [John Henry] McNulty (1879-1954), English author of The Dethronement of Shakespeare: Essays and Verses (1926), wrote a letter to the editor (printed directlyaboveTSE’sreply)inresponsetoTSE’sreferencetoWhitmanas“theAmericanTennyson” in “Israfel” (3.97): “What is there in common between the perfect verse of Tennyson and the wild formless writing, neither verse nor prose, of the American? May I ask if the phrase is a slip, or a joke, or whether your reviewer can give the slightest reason for it? I ask this in simple bewilderment.” 2. See “Whitman and Tennyson,” The Nation and the Athenaeum, 40 (18 Dec 1926) (2.896). ...