The churl in spirit, up or down
Along the scale of ranks, thro’ all,
To him who grasps a golden ball,
By blood a king, at heart a clown;

The churl in spirit, howe’er he veil
His want in forms for fashion’s sake,
Will let his coltish nature break
At seasons thro’ the gilded pale:

For who can always act? but he,
To whom a thousand memories call,
Not being less but more than all
The gentleness he seem’d to be,

Best seem’d the thing he was, and join’d
Each office of the social hour
To noble manners, as the flower
And native growth of noble mind;

Nor ever narrowness or spite,
Or villain fancy fleeting by,
Drew in the expression of an eye,
Where God and Nature met in light;

And thus he bore without abuse
The grand old name of gentleman,
Defamed by every charlatan,
And soil’d with all ignoble use.

Tennyson wants to tell me about Hallam, and intermittently he gives a glimpse of a remarkable person, only to obscure it with careless, hearty phrases like “the grand old name of gentleman” which sounds like the conclusion of a bad eulogy by a member of the Drones’ Club. Just a few lines before he has said it well: “not being less but more than all/ the gentleness he seem’d to be.” It is hard to sketch the character of an admired friend; Tennyson tries many times perhaps because he senses that he hasn’t fully managed it.

I noticed that other people, who knew her quite fleetingly, were better at expressing aspects of our late daughter’s character than I was. Could it be that a close relationship makes expression of the dear one’s nature harder rather than easier?

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