Wednesday, January 14, 2015

An 1857 Alfred Tennyson mystery solved!

Since my visit to The Morgan Library Museum last February 2014 to conduct some research on Alfred Tennyson and his family; I read through the Tennyson archives held there when one letter Tennyson wrote stood out to me. Since that day, I have been curious about who this photographer was that Tennyson refers to not by name...Thus, the mystery. Alright, its not Agatha Christie, but for me it might as well have been... TENNYSON'S LETTER READS AS FOLLOWS TAKEN FROM THE ACTUAL LETTER I HELD IN MY HANDS AT THE MORGAN MUSEUM THAT DAY. I TRANSCRIBED THE FOLLOWING:

Farringford
I.W.
Ap. 25th/57

Dear Sir,
I have this morning received the photographs of my two boys. The oldest is very well likened:  the other, perhaps, not so well.
My best thanks. I wish you had come up here when you were at Freshwater as it is.
I look forward to the pleasure of  making your acquaintance at some future time.
                                                                                                                              Yours very truly,
                                                                                                                               A. Tennyson

Immediately, I read this and thought, 'what photographer' is Tennyson referring to? It wasn't Mrs. Cameron, obviously, Oscar Rejlander took The Tennyson Family photos during the 1860s on the grounds of Farringford House. It wasn't John Mayall. Possibly Lewis Carroll who photographed Tennyson's boys, Hallam and Lionel in 1857. I'll get to that later. I knew it wasn't Carroll because Tennyson mentions not meeting the photographer and Tennyson and Carroll met before and after 1857!  So, 1857 photographs of the boys taken by someone Tennyson did not meet yet...this leaves one man named Reginald Southey who in 1857 took the two following very important photographs of two sets of boys who were sons of two of the most prominent nineteenth century figures and very good friends:


 Is this not the sweetest photograph of Alfred Tennyson's sons:  LEFT: oldest boy, Hallam Tennyson looking directly into the camera 'capturing his likeness' as his father says and the younger profile of Lionel Tennyson staring at something..., Hallam was five years old in 1857 and his brother would have been three years old in 1857.  Hallam Tennyson (1852-1928) and Lionel Tennyson (1854-86) as children by Reginald Southey, Freshwater, Isle of Wight. Albumen print, 84 x 137mm (3 3/48 x 5 3/8").  1857, Princeton Library.


Two sons of nineteenth century photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron: Charles Cameron (1848-?) and Harry (Henry) Cameron (1852-1911) as children by Reginald Southey. Freshwater, Isle of Wight. Albumen print, 84 x 137mm (3 3/8 x 5 3/8"). 1857.  Princeton Library. Charles would have been nine years old and his brother Harry only five years old!  Reginald Southey used the same set, the same back pillow. Perhaps even the same clothes? 

Now for the background and you can draw your own conclusions...
In Emily Tennyson’s journal entry from 24 April 1857, ‘Mr. Reginald Southey’s photograph of the boys arrives. One can trace some likeness to Hallam in that of Hallam little ruffian tho’ he be. Lionel comes out still less distinctly but one is grateful.’ Tennyson himself wrote to Southey to thank him for the prints, suggesting that he might like to visit Farringford if he were to return to Freshwater.

Southey’s photographs of the Tennyson boys and of the Camerons’ sons Charles and Henry, were apparently posed in the house where the Camerons were staying while on the Isle of Wight to attend the wedding of Horatio Tennyson. Although very small and lacking the scale and impact of Julia Margaret’s own photographs, Southey’s portraits are close-ups, with background and extraneous detail carefully omitted. 
Hallam and Lionel Tennyson with Julia Marshall (28 September 1857) Taken by Charles Dodgson a.k.a. Lewis Carroll.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, son Hallam, James G. Marshall, his wife Mary nee Spring Rice, and their daughter Julia Marshall, taken on 28 September 1857 at Monk Coniston Park, Ambleside, Marshalls home in the Lake District. An intricately posed portrait.

 More of the Lewis Carroll connection...
A rare original photograph by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) of Alfred Lord Tennyson with his son Hallam, seated together with James and Mary Marshall and their daughter Julia. (Could this Julia Marshall be the same Julia Marshall photographed above with Tennyson's boys?) Mary Marshall was the sister of one of Tennyson’s Cambridge friends, and the family owned Monk Coniston, which later became the home of Beatrix Potter. It was there that Tennyson and his wife Emily spent part of their delayed honeymoon in 1851. The Marshalls were “part of a huge family network of enormously wealthy linen manufacturers” and “loved having literary and artistic guests” (R. B. Martin. Tennyson: The Unquiet Heart, 1980, pp. 338-339). At the time he made this photograph, Charles Dodgson was still an unknown mathematics lecturer. He was also a pioneering photographer in the early days of the medium’s existence. Dodgson “had an eye for the beauty around him and a good sense of composition, qualities amply evident in his photographs”. Historian Helmut Gernsheim called his photographic achievements “truly astonishing” and proclaimed him “the most outstanding photographer of children in the nineteenth century” (ODNB). Dodgson was a good friend of the Marshalls, and this photograph was taken during a visit to Monk Coniston in September 1857. Dodgson knew of Tennyson’s stay at the adjoining Tent Lodge, and on paying a social call was “most kindly received [by Mrs. Tennyson] and spent nearly an hour there. I also saw the two children, Hallam and Lionel, 5 and 3 years old, the most beautiful boys of their age I ever saw. I got leave to take portraits of them… she even seemed to think it was not hopeless that Tennyson himself might sit, though I said I would not request it, as he must have refused so many that it is unfair to expect it” (Gernsheim, Lewis Carroll Photographer, p. 42). On 22 September he recorded in his diary that he met Tennyson himself: “Brought my books of photographs to be looked at. Mr. and Mrs. Tennyson admired some of them so much that I have strong hopes of ultimately getting a sitting from the poet, though I have not yet ventured to ask for it. He threw out several hints of his wish to learn photography, but seemed to be deterred by a dread of the amount of patience required” (Gernsheim p. 42). Dodgson’s own patience was rewarded on the 28th and 29th, when he made portraits of all the Tennyson family members, writing of the 29th that “Went over to the Marshall’s about 11 and spent the day till 4 in photography. I got a beautiful portrait of Hallam, sitting, and a group in the drawing-room of Mr. Tennyson and Hallam, Mr. and Mrs. Marshall and Julia” (Gernsheim p. 42). 

Monk Coniston survives today and here are some photographs of the honeymoon spot of Lord and Lady Tennyson - just for fun!
 Tent Lodge in Cumbria, The Lake District is where The Tennyson's honeymooned in September 1850 and it still stands today; even open to the public!!

“From a letter of Carlyle to his wife, dated September 1850, we get a glimpse of the newly-wedded couple on a visit at Tent Lodge, Coniston.  “Alfred looks really improved, I should say; cheerful in what he talks, and looking forward to a future less detached than the past has been. A good soul, find him where and how situated you may. Mrs. Tennyson lights up bright glittering blue eyes when you speak to her; has wit, has sense; and were it not that she seems so very delicate in health, I should augur really well of Tennyson’s adventure.” (The Homes and Haunts of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate by George G. Napier, published in 1892, pg. 156.)

 Monk Coniston Estate, Cumbria, Lake District, England. Monk Coniston Rooms








9 comments:

Hels said...

Cool photos :)

I too would have guessed Julia Margaret Cameron, not necessarily on stylistic grounds but because of the date and location. Since the late 1850s she had been living near to Alfred Lord Tennyson on the Isle of Wight. Tennyson had asked Cameron to make illustrations for his book, so I assume they were in each other's homes all the time.

gail middleton said...

Southey and Dodgson were friends and Dodgson bought his first camera during a visit to London with Southey- after consulting with Uncle Skeffington. My 'theory' is that between 1857 and 1864, did the pair work together and perhaps offer to assist in 'training' photographers (for example Julia Margaret Cameron pre- 1864 when she got her own camera?) Your observation on the similarity of 'close-up' (not in-vogue for photographers at the time) by Southey gives me a bit more hope. The other enigma in this scenario is Julia's brother-in-law Lord Somers- an accomplished photographer who once in Parliament 'forgot' all about his hobby, and no mention is then made of it. He too, is likely to have taught JMC, along with Wynfield. Still much to piece together on this fascinating and pioneering group!

Kimberly Eve said...

Hi Hels,
Great to see you here. Thanks for commenting. Since the year I focused on was 1857, Tennyson and Cameron's Idylls of the King wasn't until 1875 a bit too late for this particular post but gorgeous photographs juxtaposed against Mrs. Cameron's handwriting of Alfred Tennyson's Idylls of the King.
Yes, they lived a short pathway away from each other and visited often but I'm sure it was more Mrs. Cameron chasing down Tennyson ;)

Kimberly Eve said...

Hi Gail,
You know I was going to include that bit about how Southey and Dodgson actually knew each other in Oxford but I couldn't really connect it to the rest of my article so left it out! There is so much more I want to know about The Freshwater Circle and what went on ;)
Yes, you're right, I strongly agree with you about the pair working together between those years. We already know that Southey stayed with Cameron and Dodgson was there and Southey did give Cameron a camera a bit before her daughter's gift, so who knows!! Yes, Lord Somers, and his wife being one of the Pattle sisters as well! I'm guessing that's the Lord Somers you're referencing.

WoofWoof said...

Well done for a fascinating piece of detective work! Just wondered if Reginald Southey was any relation of the poet? Thanks also for including that wonderful photograph of Tennyson with his son on his lap. There are so mnay interesting details - eg I never realised that the Tennyson's honeymooned in the Lake District' and how interesting that Lewis Carroll should be there at the same time!

Kimberly Eve said...

Hi WoofWoof,
I just love these types of posts. So much fun to research and ponder on. According to Wikipedia (so who knows) yes, Reginald Southey(15 September 1835 – 8 November 1899) was the nephew of Romantic poet Robert Southey. If that's the poet you mean?
I know I love that photo of Tennyson holding Hallam. Did you catch the look on Tennyson's face, though, looking straight into camera lens into Dodgson's face! He didn't look happy to be snapped but then again he did agree to sit! Yes, thank goodness we have Lady Tennyson's letters and Alfred's as well. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

WoofWoof said...

Ah so this Southey was Robert Southey's nephew. The latter was a friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge (and Poet Laureate before Wordsworth). Nowadays he's remembered more foe writing Goldilocks and the Three Bears! (And he ignored Charlotte Bronte when she sent him her first novel to look at as an unknown and unpublished writer!).

Evie Hodgson said...

Wonderful reading.

Jan Toms said...

Truly fascinating.

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