A Critical edition of Tennyson's poems has long been an acknowledged want. He has taken his place among the English Classics, and as a Classic he is, and will be, studied, seriously and minutely, by many thousands of his countrymen, both in the present generation as well as in future ages. As in the works of his more illustrious brethren, so in his trifles will become subjects of curious interest, and assume an importance of which we have no conception now. Here he will engage the attention of the antiquary, there of the social historian. Long after his politics, his ethics, his theology have ceased to be immediately influential, they will be of immense historical significance. A consummate artist and a consummate master of our language, the process by which he achieved results so memorable can never fail to be of interest, and of absorbing interest, to critical students.
I must, I fear, claim the indulgence due to one who attempts, for the first time, a critical edition of a text so perplexingly voluminous in variants as Tennyson's. I can only say that I have spared neither time nor labour to be accurate and exhaustive. I have myself collated, or have had collated for me, every edition recorded in the British Museum Catalogue, and where that has been deficient I have had recourse to other public libraries, and to the libraries of private friends. I am not conscious that I have left any variant unrecorded, but I should not like to assert that this is the case. Tennyson was so restlessly indefatigable in his corrections that there may lurk, in editions of the poems which I have not seen, other variants; and it is also possible that, in spite of my vigilance, some may have escaped me even in the editions which have been collated, and some may have been made at a date earlier than the date recorded. But I trust this has not been the case.
Of the Bibliography I can say no more than that I have done my utmost to make it complete, and that it is very much fuller than any which has hitherto appeared. That it is exhaustive I dare not promise.
With regard to the Notes and Commentaries, I have spared no pains to explain everything which seemed to need explanation. There are, I think, only two points which I have not been able to clear up, namely, the name of the friend to whom the 'Palace of Art' was addressed, and the name of the friend to whom the 'Verses after Reading a Life and Letters' were addressed. I have consulted every one who would be likely to throw light on the subject, including the poet's surviving sister, many of his friends, and the present Lord Tennyson, but without success; so the names, if they were not those of some imaginary person, appear to be irrecoverable. The Prize Poem, 'Timbuctoo', as well as the poems which were temporarily or finally suppressed in the volumes published in 1830 and 1832 have been printed in the Appendix: those which were subsequently incorporated in his Works, in large type; those which he never reprinted, in small.
The text here adopted is that of 1857, but Messrs. Macmillan, to whom I beg to express my hearty thanks, have most generously allowed me to record all the variants which are still protected by copyright. I have to thank them, too, for assistance in the Bibliography. I have also to thank Mr. J. T. Wise for his kindness in lending me the privately printed volume containing the 'Morte d'Arthur, Dora,' etc.