By Zeese Papanikolas MA BA
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Locksley Hall, Tennyson’s potboiler about pure young love thwarted by the sordid world of money and society (but King forgets that he was the one who jilted the girl), with its renunciation of the world in favor of (momentarily) a dusky native maiden and colonial war, became a model for his imaginative life. I will take some savage woman, she shall rear my dusky race. And always in King there was the dream of some earthly paradise, where far from the strictures of the fallen world, the old gold girls, as King named the women of his fantasies, bathed forever in pools of light.
It is as if, he writes, he were contemplating the purpose of his life, and for just one moment he would have rather liked to dodge that purpose, or to have waited, or to have found some excellent reason why he might not go. But he does go, of course. 14 Brewer describes King as he was then: “King is enthusiastic, is wonderfully tough, has the greatest endurance I have ever seen, and is withal very muscular. ”15 He was something on the short side, blond, with a light beard. But his hazel eyes in the early photographs have the soft, far-off look of the daydreamer.
His friend Henry James saw him as a “queer, incomplete, unsatisfactory creature . . ”28 And in the end, what had he accomplished? His affairs sank into ruin. He poured other people’s money into his failing mines until there was no more to pour. In 1890, ﬁve men had died, John Hay wrote to Henry Adams, each ruining King, the last two kicking over buckets of milk King had been a year in drawing. His books stood on the shelves: the volumes of the Survey’s work, his own Systematic Geology, the slender volume of his stories.