Emily’s piano?

Margaret Crompton

Rebecca FitzGerald’s description of the restored Farringford drawing room delighted me, bringing to verbal and visual life the setting of our play When Queen Victoria Came to Tea (2015). There in the photograph is a tea-table, ready set for Emily and her guests. If only, was my first thought, our play could be performed there. My second thought was to look for the piano. Rebecca FitzGerald mentions the ‘low organ’ (visible in the mirror?) but Emily owned a piano too. In December 1999, Lincolnshire Life published an article which the editor headed: ‘Piano with a literary past. From the time of her youth in Horncastle Emily Tennyson was never happy far from a piano and Margaret Crompton has turned detective in a bid to discover if one of her beloved instruments has come to rest in Lincoln’ (p. 10).

Here is a revised version of that article, with permission of Lincolnshire Life.

piano © John Whitaker (photographer)

Exposition: December 1999
This piano used to reside on the landing in Lincoln Central Library, outside the Tennyson Research Centre (TRC). A card announced: ‘This piano was formerly used by Emily Tennyson at Farringford and may have been used to accompany Jenny Lind on the occasion of her visit in 1871’
. But was this really Emily’s piano? In the late 1990s, John and I tried to solve the mystery, studying archives in the TRC, and exploring leads in the Isle of Wight.

A 1970 summary of recent acquisitions by the TRC noted that the piano had been discovered in an antique shop in Freshwater, Isle of Wight, and presented to the TRC by Sir Charles Tennyson. A letter from Ernest Redfern of Burton Road, Lincoln, dated 7th August 1969, confirmed that he could collect the action of: ‘the piano in question – and do most of what is required in the workshop. And that was all. No correspondence about Sir Charles’s offer, or the Centre’s acceptance, of the gift – not even a letter of thanks.

The only evidence that this might indeed be Emily’s piano was the high reputation of Sir Charles himself. Grandson of Emily and Alfred, he had written the first comprehensive life of his grandfather. Would a man with so much respect for truth have procured and transported an awkward, bulky piano from Freshwater to Lincoln unless convinced of its provenance? Sir Charles told John that the piano he had bought in Freshwater was of the kind he remembered his grandmother playing at Farringford.

The piano had originated in the Isle of Wight. A plate inside the lid states:

Selected by J.G. Jones
Pianoforte and Music Warehouse
61, Union Street, Ryde, Isle of Wight’

We found that Josiah George Jones had owned a shop in Union Street between circa 1853 and 1863, but at number 78. His son, also Josiah, traded from number 61, from circa 1887 until 1893. This piano could not, it seems, have been used to accompany Jenny Lind in 1871 but might have been purchased for Farringford in or after 1887.

The Ryde piano is hardly the imposing instrument which might have been expected in the mansion of the Poet Laureate. But Alfred was known for his ‘economies’ and Emily’s piano was known as ‘inadequate’. Julia Margaret Cameron lent her own grand piano so that Edward Lear, a fine amateur singer, might be accompanied by a worthy instrument. Emily recorded in her 1856 Household Account Book: ‘March 28th Piano tuned 1. 1.0 [one guinea]; October 19th Piano tuned 10.0 [ten shillings].’ We found no further references in either household accounts or inventory. There was certainly a piano in May 1854 when the poet Edward Fitzgerald delighted and amused Emily by playing to her.

Ann Thwaite (1996) records that music was ‘at the centre of her life.’ Before her marriage, there were evenings of music at Somersby, with Mary Tennyson playing the harp. Emily learned the harmonium and played trios with her sisters (p. 48). Much of her sheet music survives, and Emily recalled visits to her Sellwood grandparents in Berkshire: ‘I was always fond of music and used to sing duets with my soldier-cousin Richard Sellwood’ (p. 40). There were dances, too, in private houses and public balls (pp. 94, 95). At Farringford, Emily played for Hallam and Lionel to dance (p. 351).

Emily’s music included setting several of Alfred’s poems. She composed ‘with one of Alfred’s poems propped on the piano in front of her and, in her mind, his voice as he read them’ (p. 288). Some members of the family considered that the melodic line reflected his characteristic vocal inflections when reading aloud. She chose her preferred version of the two drafts of ‘Sweet and low’ offered by Alfred and wrote on her manuscript book: Music written before publication of the words (p. 186). Some songs were published, usually arranged by professional musicians, for her harmonic range was limited (see p. 516). Her setting of ‘The Silent Voices’ arranged by J. Frederick Bridge (organist at Westminster Abbey) was performed at Alfred’s funeral in 1892 (p. 12).

Development: May 2017
Sue Gates (then TRC Librarian) explored possible restoration of the piano’s action but cost was prohibitive. However, in December 1999, she commissioned restoration of the panels of delicate red and green flowers, which she took to Burghley House. However, when revising the original article for this blog, I encountered a new mystery. Some years ago, the piano was removed from its perch on the Library landing. Sue’s help and service is remembered with great gratitude. But where was the piano with those lovely panels, which might, once, have been played at Farringford?

I was impelled into a scherzo of emails and telephone calls. Grace Timmins advised me that, while still the property of the TRC, the piano is now resting in the Museum of Lincolnshire Life store. After penetrating the labyrinth of local authority telephone numbers and musac, I was rewarded by a conversation with Sara Basquill, the Collections Officer, who directed me to Textile Conservator Sheila Landi. Sheila responded to my out-of-the-blue telephone call by almost-at-once remembering the panels and their host-piano. Meanwhile, Grace emailed that Sheila had dated the piano as 1860.

Then Sheila emailed her report from May 2000: ‘English, Piano about 1860 but embroidery probably later, possibly worked by the lady herself? Both panels worked on fine unbleached linen in coloured wool, of red, green and brown and some silk for brighter colours and the remains of black. A continuous garland follows the edge of the large panel and a straight garland is worked across the centre of the smaller panel. Beneath the larger panel there were the remains of a pink taffeta covering for the stretcher that was most likely to have been the original. Nothing of this remains on the smaller panel but there is evidence of a previous set of nail holes, indicating that the current embroidery is a second cover.’

Recapitulation:
So the piano which John and I had deduced could not have been sold by J. G. Jones before 1887, was dated by Sheila Landi as
circa 1860. And the embroidered panels which she restored were themselves replacements – is it possible, worked by Emily herself?

Where will this much-travelled piano live next? Will Sheila Landi’s exquisite panels ever be admired? Who will continue the tale of Emily’s piano?

Coda: The designer of the poster for the October 2016 Wolds Words Festival production of The Sellwood Girls, just a few yards from the site of their home in Horncastle Market Place, provided Emily with the superior instrument she might have enjoyed – but surely never did.

With thanks to:
Grace Timmins, TRC.
Sara Basquill, Collections Officer, Lincolnshire Heritage Services.Sheila Landi, The Landi Company Ltd., Burghley House, Stamford PE9 3JY.

References:
Crompton, M., and Crompton, J., 2015,
The Sellwood Girls and When Queen Victoria Came
To Tea
, Lyme Regis: Magic Oxygen.
Thwaite, A., 1996, Emily Tennyson: The Poet’s Wife, London: Faber & Faber.

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‘On Round Table in Drawing room’: Tennyson and his Books

Sibylle Erle

The Tennysons moved to the Isle of Wight in November 1853. They rented the house at Farringford in Freshwater which they bought in May 1856, once they had saved enough money. The Tennysons had left Twickenham as they wanted to escape the tourists who, ignoring Tennyson’s wish for privacy, were trying their hardest to catch a glimpse of the famous poet. However, privacy for the Poet Laureate proved difficult to maintain on the Isle of Wight as well: Farringford soon became a tourist attraction. Thus James Briddon’s popular guidebook of 1860 announced that the Isle of Wight was ‘hallowed by the residence of England’s greatest living poet, who dwells in the very shadow of that sea whose music swells so grandly in his “immortal verse.” At Farringford House resides Alfred Tennyson.’1 After buying the house, Tennyson started to catalogue his library. How serious he was about recording the arrangements of his books can be gleaned from the surviving lists as well as the help he had from both Emily and G. G. Bradley, a close friend of Tennyson’s.2 While most of the early lists from 1856 to 1861 are written on individual sheets or sheets stitched together into a notebook, there is also a bound book from 1887.

‘On Round Table in Drawing room’ is unique and the only surviving reference to a display of books at Farringford. The list occupies two pages and is written partly in Tennyson’s hand and partly in Emily’s.3 Some of the books are crossed out. 4 Tennyson was at the height of his fame when the list was compiled. It coincides with the publication of ‘Enid’, ‘Vivien’, ‘Elaine’ and ‘Guinevere’ (Idylls of the King), the launch of Cornhill Magazine in 1860, Prince Albert’s request for an autographed copy of Idylls of the King, the Prince Consort’s death in 1861 and Tennyson’s subsequent ‘Dedication’, Francis Taylor Palgrave’s preparation of The Golden Treasury (1861) and the beginning of ‘Enoch Arden’. The list is also significant in terms of books owned by Tennyson. It bears, for example, the only mention of his copy of William Blake’s The Illustrations of the Book of Job (1826).

In the Tennyson Research Centre in Lincoln Blake’s Job has been catalogued with Tennyson’s Bibles. That Blake’s Job was on the table suggests not only that Tennyson was interested in Blake well before the Blake revival launched by Alexander Gilchrist’s Life of William Blake (1863), but also that he thought of Blake’s Job as an illustrated book rather than a commentary on the Book of Job.5

‘On Round Table in Drawing room’ is much more than a reading list, if it is considered in its context: the Tennysons’ drawing room. According to Thad Logan in The Victorian Parlour (2001), the parlour or drawing room in the Victorian house raises interesting questions relating to the perception and construction of private and public spaces as well as of gender; by the mid-nineteenth century the Victorian home but especially the drawing room, was identified as a female space: ‘Because so many cultural authorities asserted and elaborated the confluence of the feminine and the domestic, Victorian wives and mothers functioned, at least in the culture’s official self-representation, as both creators and guarantors of a new kind of world, a domestic realm in which bourgeois identity was nurtured.’6 In the drawing room members of the family gathered in the evenings; here visitors were entertained after dinner. Logan notes that the drawing-room table was usually in the middle of the room and, therefore, at the heart of the activities in that room.7 The central drawing-room table was normally laden with illustrated books, bought and chosen to be seen, read and handled by the family and its guests. The Tennysons’ list includes a great number of books with no illustrations. We could think of Tennyson as a collector because many of the books have been signed by their authors. The evidence of the list, in short, suggests not only that Tennyson was the hub of the drawing-room entertainments, but also that the selection of books was far from random. What the Tennysons put on display was of current relevance as well as a statement about friendship.

[The above extract is from the author’s current research project on Tennyson and his Books.]

1 Briddon’s Illustrated Handbook to the Isle of Wight, Containing Everything Necessary to the Tourist (Ryde: J. Briddon, 1860), p. 71.
2 In the early 1860s, Bradley (Dean of Westminster from 1881 onwards) was headmaster at Marlborough, the school Hallam Tennyson attended from 1866.
3 Most but not all of the lists in the notebook containing “On Round Table in Drawing room” are dated. On the first page are three dates: “July 1859”, “1860”, “May 1861”. The lists, in other words, were changed, edited and amended, three times over the course of two years (TRC/N19A). On the page following on from “On Round Table in Drawing room” is a precise date “24 May 1861”.
4 For an overview of information on visitors to Farringford and Tennysons’ absences from Farringford for 1859 to 1862, see F.B. Pinion, A Tennyson Chronology (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1990), pp. 84-97.
5 For Blake and the rise of commercial book illustration see G. E. Bentley, Jr, “Blake as a Book-Illustrator: The Master of the Book Arts versus the Trade,” The Aligarh Journal of English Studies 13 (1988): 171-95.
6 Thad Logan, The Victorian Parlour: A Cultural Study (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 26.
7 Logan, Victorian Parlour, p. 126.

Lear, Tennyson, and the Poetry of Happiness

Matthew Bevis (Keynote Lecture, Tennyson Society Annual Meeting)

‘Happy I certainly have not been. I entirely disagree with the saying you quote of happy men not writing poetry’, wrote Tennyson to a friend. Edward Lear even less cheery when pondering this matter: ‘happiness is not for us here’, he insisted. This lecture explores some possible connections between poetry and happiness by focusing on Tennyson and Lear, and by considering their work in relation to the Romantic poets from whom both took their bearings. It wonders, just as Tennyson and Lear did, about whether poetry can or should make us happy, and about what happiness might or might not be.

The ‘Moxon Tennyson’ Revisited

Jim Cheshire

The illustrated edition of the 1842 Poems (often confusingly described as the ‘Moxon Tennyson’) has been widely discussed by scholars of Victorian culture. Published in the late 1850s and circulating widely by the later 1860s, it is the illustrated book most associated with Tennyson’s poetry. Much of the interest has been generated by the inclusion of the Pre-Raphaelite artists J. E. Millais, Holman Hunt and D. G. Rossetti and how their approach to illustration contrasted to the more traditional illustrations of Clarkson Stanfield and Thomas Creswick .1

The proof illustrations in the Tennyson Research Centre

This is certainly true, the illustrated 1842 Poems marks an interesting moment in the development of the relationship between word and image but it also marks the first major disagreement between Tennyson and his publisher.

The book was a commercial failure but this was not primarily a result of poor demand. By October 1858, approximately 17 months after its publication, 2,210 copies had been sold – not a high proportion of the print run of 10,000 but hardly a failure, especially for an expensive book. After being remaindered to Routledge, the first edition had sold out by 1863 and another 5000 copies were printed which appear to have sold by 1869.2 The fact that 15,000 copies sold shows that the book did not lack appeal: the problem was primarily the price. Moxon attempted to sell the book at 31s or £1.11.0, a price about one third more expensive than the usual gift book price tag of 21s.3 The problem of the high price was exacerbated by delays in publishing the book: Moxon missed the intended launch date of December 1856 and the book was published in May 1857.

The lack of commercial success was a great disappointment to Edward Moxon whose situation was made even worse by complaints about the images. When Emily Tennyson expressed her dissatisfaction, he was clearly offended and pointed that in contrast to publishers like Routledge who used out-of-copyright texts, he had to pay an author’s fee:

‘I am sorry to hear that with few exceptions you would not care to have the illustrations “at a gift”. All I can say is that neither labour nor expense has been spared in the getting up of the book – the best artists have been employed, and for the designs and engraving alone I have paid upwards of £1500.

The price of the book will be either 30/- or 31/6. Mr Routledge it is true makes the price of his annual volumes a guinea, but your friends should bear in mind that he pays nothing for copyright.’4

Another crucial factor in the failure of the illustrated 1842 Poems was the early death of Edward Moxon on 3 June 1858. Just when the Moxon firm needed all its experience to make the transition to the gift book era, the firm’s lynchpin died leaving no clear successor. Moxon’s longstanding relationship with Tennyson was a crucial point of stability and considerable mutual trust existed between poet and publisher. In the tense aftermath of the commercial failure of the illustrated 1842 Poems, the absence of this trust fuelled a major disagreement that inflicted lasting damage on the firm.

Although the agreement between Moxon and Tennyson was informal, it was very clear, as a letter from Moxon to Tennyson in July 1857 shows:

‘As the illustrated edition of your poems will I am afraid have a much slower sale than I expected, I beg to make you the following offer: –

I am willing to give you for your interest in the edition the sum which I originally said I should be able to realize for you, namely £2000. You are at present in debt to me £1101-8-3, so that should you accept my proposal you would have to receive £898-11-9…

I may mention that it is to give you the option of relieving yourself from all further anxiety in regard to the book that I make you the above offer.’5

Moxon was clearly very eager not to damage his relationship with Tennyson and to honour his initial agreement, something that was clearly not communicated to his relatives.

Only a few weeks after Edward Moxon’s death, Tennyson moved with indecent speed and wrote to William Moxon (Edward’s younger brother) in order to renegotiate his affairs with the firm.6 Significantly he no longer chose to do this himself, instead employing his brother in law Charles Weld, a trained lawyer.7 As he admitted to Weld in a letter these meetings were not just about continuity: ‘I have written today to William Moxon the barrister, urging him to appoint an early meeting with yourself and arrange or rather rearrange my relations with the house of Moxon.’8 From this point the financial agreements were negotiated between Weld and William Moxon, while Charles Moxon, son of Edward and aged only 16 seems to have taken over operational responsibility for publishing. In October 1858, William Moxon unwisely attempted to recover the losses from the illustrated 1842 Poems from Tennyson which Weld reported back to Tennyson on 27 October:

‘At length I have seen W. Moxon. The result of the interview is most unsatisfactory for when I stated that you and your friends were desirous to enter into a new arrangement which, while being more equitable should at the same time be advantageous to young Moxon – he pulled out of his pocket a piece of paper and informed me that any arrangement different to that already existing as premature as the estate of the late Mr Moxon had claims on you to the amount of £8886.8.4 –

On my demanding how this could possibly be he proceeded to tell me that in consequence of your earnest solicitations his late brother has embarked in the unfortunate speculation of publishing an illustrated edition of your Poems of which he printed 10,000 copies and that 7790 copies remained unsold.’9

William Moxon was wrong in making this claim but the conflict between publisher and poet was not just about the illustrated edition. William Moxon was clearly offended by the fact that the firm’s profits were being reduced: Tennyson seems to have seized on the opportunity offered by Edward Moxon’s death in order to renegotiate his basic agreement with the firm.10 In response, William Moxon threatened Tennyson with unresolved losses, which he had no right to do, as these were the responsibility of the firm. The Moxon family may well have been deeply offended that Tennyson had proposed this less lucrative arrangement only days after death of Edward Moxon but William Moxon had also misunderstood the terms upon which his brother had set up the financing of the illustrated 1842 Poems.

Two days later Tennyson wrote to Bradbury and Evans: ‘After very weary waiting for months and rejecting splendid offers from first rate publishers because I chose to stick by the house of Moxon, I am treated at last discourteously and untruthfully by William Moxon. I decline entering into any business till all this is explained and apologized for.’11 By March 1859, Charles Moxon was writing apologetically to Tennyson but no letters from Tennyson to Charles or William Moxon later than the disagreement have survived, suggesting that from autumn 1858 the poet’s relations with the firm were always conducted through a proxy.

Tennyson’s popularity peaked in the 1860s but in the same decade his relationship with the Moxon firm was unravelling. In 1869 he left his publisher amid some very negative publicity: arguments over illustrated books were a major factor in creating this damaging rift.

[The above passage is adapted from the author’s Tennyson and Mid-Victorian Publishing, which Palgrave Macmillan published in 2017. It has been included with the permission of the author who retains copyright.]

1 Kooistra, Poetry, Pictures and Popular Publishing, pp. 40-64; Julia Thomas, ‘”Always another poem”: Victorian Illustrations of Tennyson’, Tennyson Transformed: Alfred Lord Tennyson and Visual Culture, ed. by Jim Cheshire (London: Lund Humphries, 2009), pp. 20-31.
2 Routledge sold the book at 21s from which Tennyson received a royalty of 5s per copy: Letters of Tennyson, II, p. 379 note.
3 Kooistra, Poetry, Pictures and Popular Publishing, p. 39.
4 TRC/LETTERS/7887.
5 TRC/LETTERS/7873.
6 Alfred Tennyson, The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson, ed. by Cecil Y. Lang and Edgar F. Shannon Jr. 3 vols (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982-1990), II, p. 203.
7 Anita McConnell, ‘Weld, Charles Richard (1813–1869)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [online] http://www.oxforddnb.com./article/28982 [accessed 23 July 2015].
8 Letters of Tennyson, II, p. 203.
9 TRC/LETTERS/2419.
10 TRC/LETTERS/7339, a letter from Thomas Nettleship to Charles Field contested the claim of Moxon’s trustees, he claimed that they owned unsold copies of Tennyson’s work and confirms that the firm’s share was now just 10% of sales. This letter implies that this agreement had been in place since 1 October 1858.
11 Letters of Tennyson, II, p. 209.

Restoring the Drawing Room at Farringford (2012-17)

Rebecca FitzGerald

The restoration of the drawing room was part of a major programme of works to the main house spanning five years. Before tackling any internal works, we had to repair the roofs, nine in total.

1 bay window exterior shot looking into the room   2 bay window and original shutters freed from layers of paint

Our initial approach, as with the rest of the house, was to carefully strip back the layers of hotel-era paintwork and wallpaper in order to fully assess the conditions of the ceiling, walls, cornice, and bay window.

3 corner ceiling showing water damage. much of the cornice needed to be replaced  4 Fitted bookcase listed in Emily's 1860 inventory uncovered. In location of original chimney

The room had an enormous mirror which was original to the room; it hung full height on the south wall as you entered. It was taken to Arnold Wiggins in London who did a wonderful job of re-gilding and repairing the frame. Its removal exposed historical paint and wallpaper fragments, the most recent predating the 1940s when the family sold the house to Thomas Cook Holidays who converted the building to a hotel. Specialist conservators, Crick-Smith Conservation, researched and complied a report on the papers throughout the house, and identified two fragments from behind this mirror dating from the middle decades of the nineteenth century. One was a star pattern, which I had made for one of the four principal bedrooms, the other a small fragment of a large-scale pattern. I made an informed guess as to how it might have looked in its entirety. I found something suitable with Bruce Fine Papers.

8 First section of wallpaper
There was quite a lot of water damage to the Tennysons’ drawing room. About 25% of the timber in the bay window needed to be replaced due to wet rot, most of this at sill level. 30% of the original cornice had to be taken down due to water ingression through the flat roof, but the walls in general were in good order.

5 detail thereof 6 Detail of cornice in progress 7 Detail of finished cornice The first attempted

We discovered that the fireplace had been moved from the north end of the room to its current location sometime between 1843 and 1853 by The Rev R. Seymour, who sold the house to the Tennysons in 1856. On lifting the floorboards in order to install the under-floor heating we found one with the handwritten instruction, ‘For collection by R Seymour for Farringford.’

Several visitors’ accounts refer to the drawing room being a room predominantly red in colour scheme. It is known that when the family rented the house between 1853-1856 they lived with a red wallpaper, before re-papering once they had raised the funds to buy the property. The paper Ian Crick-Smith identified is in tints of beige, soft gold and dove grey. All of the soft furnishings chosen are nonetheless in shades of crimson, also the ‘lustres’ [sic] and oil lamps, so to recreate that crimson glow so often alluded.

I referred constantly to Emily’s inventory from 1860 (held in the collection of the Tennyson Research Centre in Lincoln) when it came to sourcing furniture and objects for the room, and selectively, to visitor’s accounts. The low organ, described as being in one of the two alcoves at the north end of the room, came from the wonderful Finchcocks Musical Museum, the other alcove is taken up with an étagère as before. A chaise longue is positioned to take full advantage once more of the view from the bay window that Emily so loved. Rosewood occasional tables, a crimson sofa, and an assortment of chairs have found their allotted place. The only piece of furniture original to the house, however, and almost certainly to this room, is a very large walnut Queen Anne style centre table, which occupies the space in front of the bay window.

Leonée Ormond’s publication, Tennyson and the Old Masters (1989), was indispensable when it came to researching the paintings that originally hung in this room. Now, Titians grace the walls once more, albeit digital copies thereof!!! We also gained permission to have copies made of the portrait of George Clayton Tennyson (originally hung in the entrance hall), and another of a youthful Tennyson, for each alcove.

The fitted carpet in shades of crimson and plum was the last item of soft furnishing to arrive, the delay the result of the loom having broken down. Everything of course had to be moved out of the room. It was worth the wait, and now everything is in place and the furniture restored to the room, we are ready to receive our first visitors.

9 Room complete, excepting portraits of George Clayton Tennyson and a youthful Alfred for each alcove

The Sellwood Girls and When Queen Victoria Came To Tea

Margaret Crompton
In 2005, John (my husband) and I were invited into the comfortable sitting-room of The Old Vicarage, Grasby and entered a new adventure. We had been engaged by local residents to lead study of the Sonnets written by Alfred Tennyson’s beloved brother the Reverend Charles Turner, as part of the Grasby Project 2000. Among the outcomes were presentations in Somersby and Grasby churches, and Hello Reverend Charles, ‘an anthology of poetry by The Grasby Sonnet Group and Charles Tennyson Turner.’

While several group members were writing poems for the first time, I plunged into a deep concern for someone I had not before encountered. Louisa Sellwood Turner had lived in the old house ‘with its surging floors’ before Charles built the imposing vicarage at the top of the hill. Through Ann Thwaite’s biography of Emily Tennyson, The Poet’s Wife, we began to learn the story of this other poet’s wife, Emily’s sister. I felt such connection, partly through aspects of my life which mirrored hers, that I began a sequence of poems to give her a voice. ‘In memoriam LST’ was a challenge to myself. ‘Occupational therapy 1879’ was published in 2012. At this time, I felt angry with Emily and Hallam Tennyson for, as I thought, offloading Louisa into a lunatic asylum, where she died. Several years later, I unexpectedly wrote the second half of the sequence, and discovered how much I had changed, not only in understanding myself, but also in my attitude towards those people. Lost Lady Found achieves reconciliation for us all, people and poet.

Louisa needed no more of my poems, but I had become interested in all three Sellwood girls. I began to write a play and, seeking a framing narrator, found Hallam who, I now realised, also needed a voice. The Sellwood Girls opens as Hallam is writing his own play, and develops as he meets, out of time and space, his mother and two aunts. The play is based on contemporary journals, letters, poems and diaries, including Louisa’s own largely illegible little red-leather-covered volumes. To study this material, we spent much time in the Tennyson Research Centre and are grateful to Grace Timmins for her generous help.

On completing the one-act play, I needed a companion piece, to be free-standing or provide a full programme. For years, John had enjoyed the conceit of an informal meeting at Farringford between Alfred Tennyson and Prince Albert. Walking on the Lincolnshire Wolds, we improvised their discussion, and eavesdropped on Victoria’s incognito visit to Emily. As our ideas developed, we learnt that Albert had indeed called on Alfred, and that Victoria had planned, but failed, to call on Emily. Our play imagines the Prince’s second visit, and the call the Queen might have made.

From the Grasby vicarage to the Farringford study and drawing room, these plays invite you into the private places and spaces of the wives and their poets. And they’re a delight to read with friends, and of course, afternoon tea.

Crompton, M., 2012, ‘Occupational therapy 1879’ in A Speaking Silence: Quaker poets of today,
ed. R. V. Bailey and S. Krayer, Beaworthy: Indigo Dreams, p. 47.
Crompton, M., 2014, Lost Lady Found, unpublished.
Crompton, M.,and Crompton, J., 2015, The Sellwood Girls and When Queen Victoria Came
To Tea, Lyme Regis: Magic Oxygen, print £6 ebook £3.
Grasby Sonnet Group, 2006, Hello Reverend Charles, Grasby: The Grasby Project.
Thwaite, A, 1996, Emily Tennyson: The Poet’s Wife, London: Faber and Faber.

sellwood

Alfred Tennyson’s Move

Grace Timmins

The libraries of Alfred Tennyson, his father, his brother, son and wife have been housed in the dome room of Lincoln Central Library since 1964. The letters were boxed and shelved alongside them, together with photographs and a display case of ‘spare’ objects. Over the years, following the closure of the Tennyson Room in the Usher Gallery, a range of belongings and furniture joined the leather bound tomes including his desk, a highly decorated chair made especially for the regal bottom of Queen Emma of Hawaii, his paintbox, pipes, tobacco and quills. It was a pungent, thrilling conglomeration of Victorian stuff.

Tennyson’s grandson, Sir Charles Locker Tennyson assisted in the arrangement and provenance of many items, handling them and arranging them. His notes are still to be found all over the holdings. The librarians decided to arrange the books according to the owners of the books, a decision that has upset librarians devoted to the Dewey system ever since. That decision also has a fundamental impact on how people experience the collection: you get a sense of the material and intellectual surroundings of the individual men and women who lived amongst these things. The three-volume pot boilers which had originated in the ‘servants’ cupboard’ or ‘outside hall’ were banished to the stack in the central library.

Tennyson’s wife and daughter-in-law were crucial to the labelling and editing of the collection. Audrey Tennyson’s books might be subsumed into her husband’s library, but her hand is on the notes of most of the objects and she helped record, for example, how Tennyson’s books were arranged at his home, the progress of his last illness and the kinds of things he said on his walks. Emily with her son Hallam enacted ruthless carnage with correspondence and papers considered unsuitable for the poet’s image carefully crafted for posterity.

3

Fifty years after its homing in the dome and the centre has been in the hands of four curator/librarians. The crisis of local government funding led Lincolnshire Libraries to outsource the running of their sites. The Tennyson collection remains with the county archive service, a bit of a cuckoo in the public library nest. Environmental considerations led to a proposal to box all the books, papers and photographs and place them in the repository. This was re-thought pretty quickly and an upstairs room in Lincolnshire Archives was set aside for a ‘new’ research centre.

We are in the process now of arranging the transfer of the books and furniture in the centre. Decisions have had to be made based on vulnerabilities of material. The photographs, letters and manuscript material are already in the archives’ bomb proof repository with the scary heavy doors. My colleagues need to be able to find things independently of me and this has exposed the idiosyncrasies of some of the boxing arrangements. After all, only three people before me have looked after the collection since its incarnation as a local government jewel. I see my predecessors’ traces through catalogues, cards, notes and feel absurdly loyal to their arrangements.

The libraries will be in wonderful new bookcases lining the new room which will be accessible for more hours and be a more flexible space. The content of the collection remains the same but it feels very different. The room will be ‘dressed’ with Tennyson’s things and be a more deliberate arrangement than an organic one. A welcome change should be that there will be space for the servants’ books and those of the outside cupboard to join the family libraries.

1

By the time of the conference, ‘Books-Place-Space: Tennyson in the early 1860s’, we hope that a large Victorian crown court table will accommodate the Tennysons’ display of books on the drawing table which they prepared for visitors to the drawing room and which is recorded in a notebook in the collection. On 9th June a workshop is planned to take place in the archive and experience as closely as possible what the visitor to the Tennysons’ drawing room experienced.

Moving the collection from one place to another place does not change the contents of the collection but it does change the interaction with it. I’ve seen it with fresh eyes, been forced to judge its different components and had to think about how my colleagues will view how it has been organised, The collection bears the evidence of all those who have made decisions about editing, handling, arranging, boxing and cataloguing, me included.