Alfred Austin, The Season: a Satire (London: George Manwaring, 1861; second edition revised), p22-26,
My Satire and Its Censors (London: George Manwaring, 1861), p14-15.
Austin, Alfred. The Season: A Satire. London: George Manwaring, 1861. Second Edition Revised. p22-26.
Why sing the Season? cautious critics say:
Why write a Satire ?--only Epics pay.
The world grows earnest, and no more endures
A dilettante flippant pen like yours.
Sing of the Zodiac! the Creator's Mind!
The past -- the future -- Mansions of Mankind!
The secret spheres of blessedness or woe!
Sing all, sing any -- save the one you know.
Shriek -- start -- pant – palpitate – pause -- prove to men
There is some splendid purpose in, your pen.
Convert your cut-throats, leave your Phrynes chaste;
Flaunt moral diamonds (who will know they're paste?):
Compete with Meredith:[a] discreetly steal
Your plot, your apophthegms, and top “Lucile!”
Spawn bastard spondees spuriously Greek,
With modern tawdry drape the grand Antique,
Olympus vulgarize with clumsy care
Cambridge rewarded Kingsley [b] with a Chair.
Or write blank verse: it moveth more severe:
Moral your metre, if your views be queer;
And hint, from 'neath a philosophic hood,
The "Social Evil"'s for the social good.
Throw in some politics, some art, and see
What are your chances 'gainst Aurora [c] Leigh."
[a] I would point out to Mr. Owen Meredith, that in one serious particular he has overlooked parental admonition. In one of those charming conversations, prefixed to each Book of "My Novel," Pisistratus Caxton combats the idea of his relations, that he can make the personages of his story act and talk just as it pleases him. He urges with admirable force that, once started on a certain path, the author has no control over the destination of his characters. They must be dramatically consistent with themselves. Goethe means the same thing when he says, "A man's history is his character." Had Owen Meredith even a glimpse of this truth, we should have been spared the final tableau of repentance and forgiveness which concludes "Lucile." Really, men and women -- men certainly -- are not in the habit of repenting in the ridiculously promiscuous manner attributed to them from, I suppose, some preconceived .notions of morality. Why may not a few at least be allowed to remain in ideal histories, as most, who have ever been, remain in real life, wicked to the last.
[b] "Andromeda and other Poems" has attained to the honours of a second edition. Clergymen seem to be privileged. Even had we boys -- nous autres -- written and published
"As long as lips grow ripe to kiss," &c.
"Kiss me but once and I go. Then raising her neck like a sea-bird
Peering up over the wave, from the foam-white swells of her bosom
Blushing, she kissed him:"
not even the plea of our "hot youth" and irresponsible position would have saved us from the denunciations of the orthodox: but a "saint in crape" who, if lucky, may become a "saint in lawn,'" advertises these erotic effusions side by side with "Good News from God," and is not only pardoned but applauded, and not only applauded but recompensed. The Chair of Modern History at Cambridge is occupied by this reverend rhymester.
[c] Will Mrs. Barrett Browning pardon me for saying that I entertain for her genius great admiration She is the only English Poetess who can be justified by Mr. John Stuart Mill's ordeal. In his dissertation on Alfred de Vigny, he says :
"The gems alone of thought and fancy are worth setting with the finished and elaborate workmanship of verse: and even of them, only those whose effect is heightened by it.”
But its many gems of thought and fancy, and complmentary criticisms thereon despite, "Aurora Leigh" is not -- and no one could make it -- a Poem. Her "Poems before Congress" have been roughly handled. I will not praise them; but I will assure her that her opinions, not her versification (both heterodox enough, doubtless), were the front of her offending. She is living in Italy: and so she will perhaps be willing to learn, from one still in England, that silly stanzas have a chance of gaining favour, but heretical politics not even a hearing. Englishmen are not altered since Burke wrote, in his "Vindication of Natural Society:" –
“A man is allowed sufficient freedom of thought, provided he knows how to choose his subject properly. You may criticise freely upon the Chinese constitution, and observe with as much severity as you please upon the absurd tricks or destructive bigotry of the Bonzees. But the scene is changed as you come homeward, and atheism or treason may be the name given in Britain to what would be reason and truth, if asserted of China."
Alfred Austin. My Satire and Its Censors (London: George Manwaring, 1861), p14-15.
Well, let them slander: but so long as Youth
Stands firm, my friend, I'll give a tongue to Truth.
Let others dread the dirks they cannot see,
And think it decent to submit or flee:
Let Meredith  be cowed, or sybaritic,
Light his cheroot with blunders from the Critic;
At worst, I shield my back against the wall,
And bide the brunt of any or of all !
Shame on the boy, effeminate, who loves
To strike and back be stricken but with gloves;
Shame more on him, who, flippant, in the sun,
Recks not if Man's Great Fight be lost or won;
Beside some sunny river dreams aloof,
Nor heeds the river's eloquent reproof !
O Boy ! it urges, Come with me along,
A stream no more, but broad and swift and strong.
 Had I been aware, when I published "The Season," of the rude onslaught then meditated and since made by some critics on Owen Meredith, I would have expressed my opinion of "Lucile" in more measured terms. But these same gentlemen who extolled that Poem to the skies are, for some reason or other best known to themselves, now decrying its author in a language all their own. I, who thought it right to protest against the immoderate jubilation uttered over a not very original, though certainly very clever, novel in rhyme, think it also right to protest against the yet more indecent attacks upon the accomplished writer of the "Serbski Pesme." The man who wrote the "Psalm of Confession" will, I trust, excuse me for saying that he owes it to himself, to the name he bears, and to the country which is proud of that name, to do something better than allow himself to be flattered by Mr. Thackeray into spurring with his verses the slackening sale of the Cornhill Magazine; for he has shown himself capable of producing poems quite beyond the mental digestion of monthly readers.
Last revised: 20 August 2010