In the minor leagues
Posted by Karen R on October 25, 1997 at 17:25:25:
Earlier, someone had questioned why I characterized Ash as a minor poet. I couldn't quite remember why it struck me that he wasn't one of the greats, since Byatt had used at least two great poets as models for him. Now, I've sorted through things, including the text and my mind, and come up with the following explanation.
First (and this is the weakest defense), the total lack of awareness of the media about him. I can understand why they know nothing about Christabel, but someone like a Browning or a Tennyson, no way. While I have to admit that TV hosts may not have the greatest minds on the face of the earth, imagine if that had happened today in England and the subject in question was someone like T or B?
Second, his death and the aftermath. Ash was not buried at the Abbey. While the book explains that Ellen wanted him buried where he was, Cropper's bio of Ash describes how several people went to see the Dean of Westminster to inquire whether it would be appropriate. The Dean turned them down due to "doubts about RA's religious beliefs." Now that's a bunch of hoohah!!!
Emily Tennyson expressed exactly the same concerns. She wanted T buried in some little village's church, but her desires were entirely disregarded and a huge ceremony was held. T was England first poet laureate and it didn't matter what she wanted. Similarly, Browning, who died in Venice, wanted to be buried next to his wife, Elizabeth, in Florence. Did that happen? No. They had a big to do in Venice on barges, etc., and then he was taken via train back to London for the huge public spectacle of a funeral and internment at Westminster Abbey.
In the book, there is some ironic language about the words Ellen chose for Randolph's tombstone. The "bathos of comparing this prolific Victorian poet to the great Raphael..." He may have been prolific, but he was not great.
If Ash were as great as either T or B, then there would not have been any question about Cropper taking the letters out of the country.
How does that sound?
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