By Contributed, 08-Jan-2013 17:50:00
Review courtesy of Kimberly Eve, read more of her fantastic reviews here
Alfred Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria's favourite poet, commanded a wider readership than any other of his time. His ascendancy was neither the triumph of pure genius nor an accident of history:he skilfully crafted his own career and his relationships with his audience. Fame and recognition came, lavishly and in abundance, but the hunger for more never left him. Like many successful Victorians, he was a provincial determined to make good in the capital while retaining his regional strengths. One of eleven children, he remained close to his extended family and never lost his Lincolnshire accent.Resolving never to be anything except 'a poet', he wore his hair long, smoked incessantly and sported a cloak and wide-brimmed Spanish hat.
Tennyson ranged widely in his poetry, turning his interests in geology, evolution and Arthurian legend into verse, but much of his work relates to his personal life. The tragic loss of Arthur Hallam, a brilliant friend and fellow Apostle at Cambridge, fed into some of his most successful and best-known poems. It took Tennyson seventeen years to complete his great elegy for Hallam, In Memoriam, a work which established his fame and secured his appointment as Poet Laureate.
The poet who wrote The Lady of Shalott and The Charge of the Light Brigade has become a permanent part of our culture. This enjoyable and thoughtful new biography shows him as a Romantic as well as a Victorian, exploring both the poems and Tennyson's attempts at play writing, as well as the pressures of his age and the personal relationships that made the man.
John Batchelor has made a stellar attempt to write not only a biography covering Tennyson's life (1809-1892) he has included some fascinating reading sources published throughout the last thirty years! Batchelor takes a different view of Tennyson's life covering aspects of not only the much written and well-known topics such as his difficult relationship with his father George Clayton Tennyson (1778-1831) but sheds light on Tennyson's sibling and writing relationship with older brother Charles Tennyson Turner (1808-79) whom he was published with early in life just before going off to Cambridge together. Batchelor writes with tenderness and respect about Alfred Tennyson's life especially when it comes to his familial relationships with his grandparents and aunts including quotations from correspondence and painting portraits as well.
When it comes to Alfred's later years including his life with wife Emily, her side of the family (The Sellwoods), their children, and even grandchildren; it's all here in a well written and engaging account of the greatest poet of the nineteenth century and the Victorian era Alfred Lord Tennyson. He was an introspective man who loved nature, who felt at one with it, who loved words, his family, and who cherished his friends all his life. So, if anyone is attempting to discover who the man Alfred was before and after becoming Poet Laureate, I urge you to read John Batchelor's 'Tennyson: To strive, to seek, to find.'
*photographic evidence that Alfred Tennyson wore other colors besides black!
Lady Emily Tennyson with her boys Hallam (left) Lionel (right) 1862 by Jeffreys, housed at National Portrait Gallery
Photograph of Alfred Tennyson with the boys by Julia Margaret Cameron around the same year
By Contributed, 04-Oct-2012 07:14:00
The general assumption that an English author's reputation in America was a duplicate of that in his own country is strikingly disproved by the course of Tennyson's American fame.
America accepted Tennyson much earlier than did his own country. In the eighteen-thirties Americans who knew his poems were unanimously praising them while the leading British journals were subjecting Tennyson to one of the bitterest attacks in the history of literary criticism. It was through the "good offices" of Americans that Tennyson was persuaded, in spite of the British censure, to venture into print again in 1842. Both the Poems of 1842 and Tennyson's next work, The Princess received greater praise in America than in England.
In their acclamation of The Princess American periodicals directly reprimanded the British for failure to understand so excellent a work. With the coming of In Memoriam, American critics again exhibited their independence of British criticism. Many disliked the poem, and they said so, in the face of England's first wholehearted approval of Tennyson. The peculiar reception given the peculiar poem, "Maud," in America is another example of originality in criticism. The reputation of Tennyson in this country through 1858 offers evidence of an almost unbelievable independence in American literary criticism at the time.
By Contributed, 02-Oct-2012 14:35:00
THE PRIMROSE PATH OF DALLIANCE,
This is the family name for the lovely path through
the copse on the Maiden's Croft. It is approached
from the House by the little bridge that spans the
lane through Farringford. Tennyson loved the
flowers and could not bear to see any plucked, even
when growing in profusion in the fields.
This drawing belongs to old friends of his who
have always known the path well.
Helen Allingham R.W.S.
(The Homes of Tennyson 1905)
By Contributed, 01-Oct-2012 19:06:00
It is with a delightful response that one comes
upon Morland's well-known picture of " The
Stable " in the National Gallery. I was actually
searching for it when my admiration was arrested
by a vision of harmonious, tranquil life. A
peaceful gleam rather than a picture met my
gaze, and as I looked I realised that this was
what I was seeking. All in it is natural, in-
evitable, as the greatest and best must always
The day is ending ; the horses and the pony
are led home, contentedly returning from their
toil. The stableman stoops to collect the pro-
vender ; the light flows in, shaded from without
by the piece of irradiated sacking, and as it
illumines the homely things — the wheelbarrow,
the spade, the old lantern — these very imple-
ments seem also at rest. Toil is over ; the hour
of peace has come.
There are other fine pictures by Morland, but
nothing seems quite so good as this one, which,
so I have been told, was bought and presented
to the nation by a generous benefactor. But
though nothing is perhaps quite equal to " The
Stable," one is dazzled by the wealth of the
stream which comes flowing from the easel of
this ardent workman. Sometimes one is dis-
appointed in his work, which seems to have been
alternately a torrent of realisation, of vitality,
and a drifting waste of fine material.
In his early youth horses were his delight ; he
rode in steeplechases. He was a fine musician as
well as a painter ; he was a gay and generous
companion, a happy vagrant all through life,
spending recklessly, giving out bountifully to
the end. He might have claimed a baronetcy, but
he refused, and said, " Better be a fine painter
than a fine gentleman."
George Morland was born in 1764. He was
the son of Henry Morland, also an artist, from
whom he received whatever tuition he had in
drawing and painting. We read how, as a boy,
he was made to work so hard that when he
reached manhood he went to the opposite
extreme, and his life was wild, amusing, and
agreeable. He married the sister of William
Ward, the mezzotint engraver (who reproduced
so many of his pictures). Morland loved his
wife, but after a short time of married life,
grew tired of domestic monotony, quarrelled
with his brother-in-law, and once more returned
to Bohemian ways. His health broke down ;
he owed money, and was imprisoned for debt.
One of his pictures is a scene representing a
half-naked prisoner being relieved by two kind
Morland fled from debts and bailiffs — per-
haps he rather enjoyed flying from his creditors
— and finally came to the Isle of Wight and
painted many of its aspects.
There is that wonderful episode related in his
life when, being at breakfast at six o'clock in the
morning at Yarmouth in the island, preparing for
his day's work, a corporal and a file of soldiers
marched in and took him off to Newport as a
spy, wearily trudging him through the blazing
sun. Happily one of the magistrates set him
free, and from Yarmouth and Newport he seems
to have found his way to Freshwater Bay.
Coming out of Farrlngford Lane, where the
thrushes still sing as they did in the laureate's
time, and the downs shine beyond the fragrant
hedges, you pass between them, still following
the road to the foot of the hill, where one or two
patient loiterers stand watching the passers-by ;
finally, you come to a little sea-terrace marked
by a few posts and chains. Perhaps as you look
about a gull sails by on tranquil extended pinions,
you see a few bathing-machines huddled among
the waste and lumber of the shore, and on the
opposite cliff a long low inn of only two stories
marked by a flagstaff. It is now called the
Albion. A hundred years ago a little public-
house, the Mermaid, stood on the self-same spot ;
it was a very humble Mermaid and a place of
meeting, so we are told, for smugglers and
fishermen. It is in full range of the broad sea-
breezes ; on stormy days the waves still come
from a great distance, sending sudden fountains
of spray against the low windows. The Stag
rocks are opposite ; on the other side, the fort
half-way up the cliff leads to High Down and
to its beacon wrapped in changing lights. Gulls
fly across the line of the cliff, countless rabbits
scamper along the turf. The ancient wooden
beacon has been replaced by Tennyson's cross,
but nothing else is very different from the time
— a hundred years ago — when George Morland
looked out with his flashing dark eyes and saw
it all. Here in little Freshwater he lived for a
time and worked and joined the wild revellers
who then frequented the humble tavern. There
is the story of the friend who reproached him
for keeping such humble company and dragged
him reluctantly away from the bar. But once
outside, Morland produced his sketch-book.
" Look at this," said he ; " where else could I
find such models?" and there were the admir-
able drawings of the men drinking within.
"George Morland," says Mr. Richardson, "the
successor of Reynolds and Romney, of Hogarth,
of Gainsborough, was, like Burns, absolutely
original, averse to seeking knowledge in any
academy but that of nature."
In Mr. Wedmore's Studies in English Art,
writing of landscape, he says: "Gainsborough
had discovered a mine which others would
more profitably work. He had set an example,
and others would follow it, though the result
of their following would vary with their in-
dividual gifts. Two men who worked in part
during his later life, and in chief after its close,
I connect especially with Gainsborough. The
art of each had a new element, but the art of
both was the child of Gainsborough. One of
these men was George Morland ; the other,
To go on quoting from Mr. Wed more : "To
high dramatic expression Morland did not seek
to attain ; to subtle and fine feeling he hardly
pretended ; but unconcerned with the modern
landscapist's philosophy, or any wider vision
than that which lay before his own peasant as
he trudged home from his work, or his own
fisherman as he mended the nets on the beach,
or his own shepherd as he paused at midday
to take from his wallet his meal, while the good
dogs barked around him — unconcerned with any
wider vision than that of these, Morland did
slowly build up for us a picture of the rougher
England of that day."
Many of Morland's prints and drawings are
still to be found in the island. From the
cottages they have gradually drifted to the halls
and homes of the well-to-do. Mrs. Orchard at
the Freshwater Post Office has a charming col-
lection of Morland's sketches as well as some of
those of his colleagues and imitators.
Among her prints is one called " The Fern
Gatherers," a print after Morland, published in
1799, 17| by 23f. It is curious as being the
original of a charming duplicate in water colour
by Ward. The water colour has also been
engraved, and is called " The Fern Burners."
In it only a part of the first picture is repeated.
The figure of a gipsy is altogether omitted, and
the position of another slightly altered. The
plate of this " Fern Burners " has been de-
It is a long way from Freshwater Gate to
Queen Anne's Gate at the Westminster end
of St. James's Park, where in a stately old
mansion traces of Morland's life-work are also
to be found — early and fanciful studies in his
finished early style, so unlike his broader later
manner : " Idleness," the tranquil lady in white
attire with her Httle dog to keep her company ;
" Industry," the most charming and leisurely of
industries, with her broad black hat so deftly
poised upon her elaborate locks and with pretty
red slippers resting on a footstool. She delicately
stitches at arm's length while the light falls upon
her sampler. In the hall of the same old house
the well-known children playing at soldiers are
to be seen, with that dear little girl in the fore-
ground looking on. Still more delightful are
those infants of the past robbing the orchard of
long-stolen apples. They are dressed in ancient
little knee-breeches and shoe-buckles. For a
century past the little scapegrace has come
scrambling from the branches, while another
clutches at the fallen fruit. It is all delicate,
natural ; at the same time we may realise
Morland's great advance as time went on. At
the Victoria and Albert Museum I found one
picture which appealed to me, that of the fisher-
men hauling in a boat from the sea. I thought
I could recognise the very place in Freshwater
Bay. The waves of the sea are alive, the clouds
are alive, the dog is alive, even the cliffs are
alive in their own fashion ; only the fishermen
are not alive as they haul in the boat, though
the craft is yielding to their pull and the wind
blows their hair and their clothing.
His anatomy may have failed somewhat, but
he could paint time, he could paint rest, he could
paint the essence of life, and his wayward
attraction, strange being that he was, adds
something not to be ignored to its realisation.
With so many selves to enjoy, with so many
qualities to squander, his music, his riding, his
love of animals, his love of children, his jovial
charity, his prodigal companionship, he should
have been a greater man. Morland as he grew
older took a wider view of life and nature than
in his youth. He must have been a lovable
person. His wife died of grief when she learnt
his death. She owed him love ; we owe to him
a new delight in natural things.
How often it is the thought of the others who
have passed before us that gives a personal soul
and meaning to nature itself.
Freshwater, where Morland once came, has
its own beloved traditions, traditions greater
than Morland's, and coming after him, and it
echoes with the footsteps which still seem to
be crossing the downs and treading the lanes
and the meadows all around.
Author: Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie, From the porch
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