For Edward FitzGerald, Tennyson’s Idylls were confirmation of the opinion he had held ever since the publication of The Princess in 1847: that Tennyson would never fulfil the promise of his youth. After having read ‘The Last Tournament’ he cautiously suggested to Pollock that Tennyson should stop publishing: ‘He himself had better have dropped his own Lance some while ago, as I think. But don’t tell Spedding I say so.’1 Later he adopted this position more openly:

He should rest on his Oars, or ship them for good now, I think: and I was audacious to tell him as much. But he has so many Worshippers who tell him otherwise. I think he might have stopped after 1842, leaving Princesses, Ardens, Idylls etc., all unborn. 2

Tennyson was ‘a Great Man lost – that is not risen to the Greatness that was in him’,3 ‘a man of genius, who […] has crippled his growth through over-elaboration.’4 His belief being such, FitzGerald could only look to posterity for vindication, and even then his predictions, though perhaps accurate, were not unmixed: ‘I think some of Tennyson will survive, and drag the deader part along with it, I suppose.’5