Friday, August 21, 2015

In Search of Alfred Tennyson: My week in Lincolnshire continued.

 Alfred Tennyson by Julia Margaret Cameron, albumen print, 1866.
Original at Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight.
Copy National Media Museum.

My first day in Lincolnshire found me staying in Bag Enderby and had already included a complete tour of Somersby Rectory. Now, it was time to visit its capital city of Lincoln. We had an appointment with Grace, Collections Access Officer, at Tennyson Research Centre.  I couldn’t believe that once again, I was finally going to walk through a door into a room filled with Alfred Tennyson original material i.e., albumen prints, letters, poetry volumes, complete works,  photographic images of his sons Hallam and Lionel Tennyson.  Even housed under glass was a small daguerreotype of Elizabeth Fytche Tennyson (18 May, 1780-1865), Alfred’s mother along with his pipe, Lionel’s hair and many other mementos.  

Before I could sit down, Grace was making sure I had everything in front of me that I had previously requested. She was amazing. She put in front of me two boxes filled with photographs of Hallam and Lionel. Every surviving photograph housed there. I didn’t know where to begin, so opening the first box I saw Lionel’s youngish grown bearded face before me. My friends were there too looking at their own material, some taking photos, but I promise you my heart was pounding inside my chest and everything around me went silent. Even the city sounds from below seemed to disappear and all I could focus my attention on were the photos before me. Suddenly, Grace appeared placing a letter wrapped in plastic saying to me, ‘Kimberly, you might want to read this too.’  My eyes looked at the small, shakingly black inked script handwriting of Alfred Tennyson. I gasped audibly and I couldn’t believe what I was looking at and reading. I did not request this letter but for some reason Grace thought to show it to me. You see, one of the very first of Tennyson’s letters that I found and read was from ‘Memoirs’ and it was Alfred’s letter to a young Hallam and Lionel telling them to listen to mama and be ‘good biscuit boys’ (also possibly good biscuity boys) depending upon how you read his handwriting.  Alfred’s letter shaped who the man was, who he was as father figure, and ‘papa’ to his beloved sons. Now, I was holding  in my own hands Alfred’s words to his sons; his own words echoing on after him throughout decades. I smiled as I read this letter and explained to Grace how it was one of the first of his letters I actually read and thanked her so much for showing it to me. It was a full-circle moment reminding me that I was now on a very important journey bringing my three plus years of researching Tennyson’s life to fruition.  If you want to read my article referencing the above letter, The Tennysons Make One Music

 Next, I moved on to looking through Lady Tennyson’s belongings including a copy of her address book, her three diaries (only two were published) along with a separate journal book that housed letters she wrote to Hallam Tennyson looking back on her years married to Alfred. This would become some of the documentation Hallam added in Volume I of Memoirs.  Emily Tennyson was such a strong willed, woman albeit it physically fragile most times her astute assistance of her husband’s poetry and music proved invaluable to generations of admirers the world over. We are so very lucky and blessed to have surviving letters from Lord and Lady Tennyson. Without them, we would not be able to capture a humanistic perspective on either of them.

Lastly, Grace, very graciously showed me the bulk of the original Julia Margaret Cameron photographs housed there including Alfred Tennyson, Julia Jackson Stephen, Annie Thackeray, May Prinsep, Mary Hillier, Robert Browning, etc. Most of all were the Idylls of the King set. I saw two at the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit but it does not compare to holding the originals in your own hand.  

We left soon afterwards with a goodbye and many hugs to Grace, I signed the visitors book and off we went for lunch around the corner at Angel Café.  We found a lovely outside table with lattes and sandwiches. We would need sustenance for our walk to Usher Gallery The Collection. Lincoln is a beautiful city, a university town found within this capital city where narrow and steep hills make it difficult to drive through so walking and cycling are the best ways to get around. Once we arrived at The Collection in Usher Gallery, my first stop was to see the portrait painting of Emily Tennyson by George Frederic Watts. I was told it was currently part of an exhibition. The main attraction seemed to be a copy of the Magna Carta.  It was a small and well produced exhibit with artifacts and paintings hung chronologically by event and or historical person. Continuing on in the exhibition, I walked straight in and towards the back of the room where hanging on the left side of the wall was Samuel Laurence’s portrait of a very young Alfred Tennyson (on loan from National Portrait Gallery).   (To read about the exhibit, Lincolnshire's Great Exhibition 

 Tennyson Reading by Candlelight by George Howard (later 9th Earl of Carlisle, 1871, private collection.
Underneath the portrait painting by Laurence was this drawing by George Howard (later 9th Earl of Carlisle). I had never seen this drawing before; not in any research books or manuscripts not even museum archives. I stood before it for at least ten minutes or so. I fell in love with it, truly; a simple drawing of a man sitting profile reading a book by candlelight. Two variations of Tennyson, one wearing his spectacles and one possibly without them. The drawing was done by family friend, George Howard at Naworth Castle while Tennyson was visiting. It was made in 1871, Alfred sat there reading by candlelight while George sketched. From a side glance, I could see Lady Tennyson in full color profile, thickly gold framed and captured with such accuracy as only ‘Signor’ could!   Again, there is such a difference when you are able to look at a painting in person as opposed to in a book or sitting before your computer screen or even iphone. Nobody at Usher Gallery rushes you but they do watch you to make sure you don’t take any photos or touch the wall hangings. 

By this time it was late afternoon and the next stop was Lincoln Cathedral to find that Tennyson statue. My friends and I toured the inside of the cathedral which is very Gothic in tone and just beautiful. It was very crowded and there was some filming going on inside preparing for a performance that night of Jesus Christ Superstar, so there were booms and lights and cameras all over the place. A quick stop through the gift shop and then a tea break. By this time it had started to rain but it was a very short distance from the rear church exit by the tea shop down a short hill to the statue of Alfred Tennyson. You cannot miss it just follow the crowds.  By the time I reached the base of the statue, rain pouring down on a balmy day, the crowds oddly dispersed. Iphone at the ready, I took photos of all sides of the statue and walked around the church grounds taking photographs. I sat on the bench in front of the statue, again, not believing where I was. I had that all-too-familiar feeling of awe and gratefulness of remembering how blessed I am to be able to be here surrounded by friends. I won’t go into a huge history of the statue. Needless to say, it was made by close friend, G.F. Watts and actually it was while I was visiting Watts Gallery on a different day that I went in to see the Tennyson plaster sculpture that served as model for the bronze statue now at Lincoln Cathedral. The plaster model is equally astonishing in size and depth. I had the room to myself, so for several minutes Alfred and I were alone in the sculpture gallery at Watts Gallery. Then a guard came walking through and started speaking with me about the statue. He was so kind. He told me that Watts placed Tennyson’s dog, Karenina, to the right of him, in that very spot to keep Tennyson from tipping over. It seemed the sculpture Alfred kept falling over when standing alone, so the dog was placed there. Who knows if he was simply ‘taking the mick’ or being serious. Either way, I thought it a fun anecdote. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Documentary The Circle of the Hills, a biography of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Currently, the only documentary biography of Alfred, Lord Tennyson is this one, The Circle of the Hills. Only on VHS, remember them? There are two copies uploaded to YouTube. One of them I am sharing linked above. It is one hour long and very well done. It profiles the Victorian-era poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). Immensely popular in his own time, he's probably best known to Americans for his rousing historical poem {-The Charge of the Light Brigade}. The biography features footage of British locales, including Tennyson's birthplace, Lincolnshire, and his later home on the Isle of Wight. Highlights include paintings and photographs from contemporary photographer Julia Margaret Cameron and readings of Tennyson's work by actor David Collings.(New York Times) desciption.

  • Title: The Circle of the Hills: A Biography of Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • Running Time: 61 Minutes
  • Genre: Biography
  • 1993

Thursday, August 6, 2015

In Search of Alfred Tennyson (6 August, 1809-6 October, 1892) Kimberly's Adventures in Lincolnshire!

Happy Birthday Alfred Tennyson!

My journey with Alfred Tennyson was born because I wanted to know who this bearded and cloaked man truly was. Was he a child prodigy? What was the impact on growing up in a large family in a village so secluded and somewhat isolated from big industrial cities? Do you remain autonomous? Do you learn to socialize outside of your own siblings? How do you cope with such a country lifestyle? What is the impact on such an impressionable boy?  

Well, one needs only to look to Tennyson’s ‘Juvenilia’ his early poetry written during the 1830s first published in Poems Chiefly Lyrical. For instance, you will find, Ode To Memory, The Mystic, The Grasshopper, The Kraken, etc. However, one early poem stands out to me and perhaps provides a rare glimpse into the psyche of a young twenty year old Alfred Tennyson, 

All good things have not kept aloof
Nor wandered into other ways:
I have not lacked thy mild reproof,
Nor golden largess of thy praise.
But life is full of weary days.

Shake hands, my friend, across the brink
Of that deep grave to which I go:
Shake hands once more: I cannot sink
So far ­ far down, but I shall know
Thy voice, and answer from below.

When in the darkness over me
The fourhanded mole shall scrape,
Plant thou no dusky cypress tree,
Nor wreathe thy cap with doleful crape,
But pledge me in the flowing grape.

And when the sappy field and wood
Grow green beneath the showery gray,
And rugged barks begin to bud,
And through damp holts new flushed with May,
Ring sudden laughters of the Jay,

Then let wise Nature work her will,
And on my clay her darnels grow;
Come only, when the days are still,
And at my headstone whisper low,
And tell me if the woodbines blow.

If thou art blest, my mother's smile
Undimmed, if bees are on the wing:
Then cease, my friend, a little while,
That I may hear the throstle sing
His bridal song, the boast of spring.

Sweet as the noise in parched plains
Of bubbling wells that fret the stones,
(If any sense in me remains)
Thy words will be: thy cheerful tones
As welcome to my crumbling bones.
After researching, writing, and publishing my articles here on my site, I had answered a few of my questions but still I needed to know more. I was gathering a loyal following filled with like minded creative souls on both sides of the pond. These wonderful people, not only found my blog but were contacting me and reaching out in mutual admiration. Thanks to my close knit circle I found myself corresponding with people in a place called, ‘The Isle of Wight’!  No really. Freshwater Bay, popped up numerous times in my emails and what I discovered was that varying culture, history, geography did not stand in the way of wanting to know more about Alfred Tennyson, not just Poet Laureate.  Through word of mouth and much social media influence, my friends and I began discussing me visiting the Isle of Wight.  After much joking and much seriousness, I found myself actually able to fly over and meet my circle of friends in the United Kingdom. 
I have left out one very good friend that I met through social media and blog sites who has been doing such incredible research and work about Alfred Tennyson, Debbie Jenner of Bag Enderby! Yes, Lincolnshire, hometown of Alfred and his siblings.  She works tirelessly in conjunction with Tennyson’s Birthplace, Somersby Rectory, the home where Alfred was born and raised for the first twenty-eight years of his life.  With an invitation to stay with Debbie and be shown around Somersby village and Bag Enderby, well, how could I refuse such kindness and generosity? The dates were agreed upon, airline tickets bought, fear and anxiety all set to knock me back a few pegs but I carried on! 
Somersby Rectory, Lincolnshire, England
My first night staying at Debbie’s, I was within walking distance of Somersby Rectory. I couldn’t believe it. It was amazing to finally be able to meet and talk face-to-face with Debbie after a few years of online messaging. She took me on a walk and within minutes over the hedge, I saw a cream colored house with a white gate immediately recognizable to anyone. My heart stopped in my chest, and I tried to remain calm and focused but open fenced, feet on gravel steps I took as we walked to the back of the house where three dogs came rushing out to greet us. They lived there with the family that lives in Somersby Rectory now. It is now privately owned and occupied by a large family. Debbie told me that she was granted permission by them to see the inside of Somersby Rectory and that nobody else has been allowed entry!  What an incredible honor. First, the outside grounds of the house. You must walk to the right side of the house, around the back where you find open grass, trees as far as the eyes can see, and flowers growing free. Not a garden per say just flowers growing wild. No, these trees of present day are not the ones from Tennyson’s days during the nineteenth century that he referenced in his poems. Don’t worry I asked. The four poplars are now gone replaced by 
elms and ewe trees I believe!  

It is difficult to truly convey what I was feeling. How do you explain literally walking in the footsteps of a man you have been researching? I will try my best to relay my feelings but just understand I was trying to remain focused on my surroundings.  I took some photos of the back of Somersby Rectory including one showing the small bedroom window above where Alfred would have looked out as a small child.   I cannot share my photos of the interior rooms because they have not been published online.  

Left: In my photos the top far right window with the balcony 
is Alfred's bedroom window. Right: The view from Alfreds bedroom window.

Debbie and I walked throughout the inside of Somersby Rectory and it is a small house two floors and an upstairs attic. When you remember that George Clayton Tennyson (1778-1831) lived there with his eleven children and his wife Elizabeth Fytche (1781-1865), one can only imagine the little children running around the main floor downstairs screaming, playing, carrying on as kids do. I can hear Mrs. Tennyson telling them to play in the sunshine outside so they can run about freely making all the noise they want while she stayed inside running the house. There were several upstairs bedrooms so I could imagine the children doubling up per room perhaps; the rooms are small and narrow. The upstairs attic is where Alfred wrote The Owl as a very young boy. He would use that space as a study room where his early writing was done. There I was walking up the narrow stairs into The Attic of Somersby Rectory; the only light coming in through one window.  A high beam still there where he would hang from above playing with his brothers.  It is interesting to remember how throughout his life, he would seek higher ground in the upper floored Attic of Farringford House on the Isle of Wight where he would smoke his pipe and entertain a select close few friends to sit with him and chat after his dinner meal was done. For this Somersby Rectory attic was a true attic, small, cold, dusty, and I didn’t spend that much time up there but once again, I walked to the attic window and looked out upon another childhood view shared with a small boy named Alfred. 
 My photo depicting Alfreds view from the attic of Somersby Rectory
I held my composure pretty well until the tour was over and we went downstairs to the main dining room where upon a small marbled table there was a glass enclosed stuffed owl. There were some leather bound books, some Tennyson and Laureate poetry volumes and the red leathered Somersby visitors book. I lost it finally. My brain kicked in after a few hours of walking through and around that house. My brain and thoughts connected, and I said, ‘Kimberly, you are standing in the home where Alfred Tennyson played, ate, slept, cried, was ill, and grew up’ and before I knew it, pen in hand, signing the visitors book, tears streamed down my face, I could hardly sign the book. Debbie completely understood and an, ‘Aw’ was audibly heard, much laughter and gratitude washed across my face. I was shaking a shaking that comes from the depths of one’s inner soul when you experience the completion of history meeting reality and it was my reality for the next two weeks.
Debbie took me through Bag Enderby Church, The Brook where Tennyson wrote his famous poem, Holywell Wood, Harrington Hall where it is believed to be the setting of Maud. I volunteered at my first village fete there and saw some Morris dancers and met so many lovely people. We went to Mablethorpe where I visited the cottage where Tennyson loved going with Emily and the boys. They would visit family who lived there. He would take the boys to the seaside and play with them. We also visited  Horncastle where we walked around the village. I saw the street where The Sellwood Family and childhood home of a future Lady Emily Tennyson grew up. A blue plaque now remains marking the spot. We visited the local church and had a wonderful time. Horncastle is filled with charity shops, beautiful scenic views, brooks, restaurants and such friendly, lovely people.
Stay tuned next time when we visit Lincoln the capital city next. Come with me when I visit The Tennyson Research Centre for the first time, Lincoln Cathedral, The Tennyson statue, and much more!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

On sale now The Belgae Torc by Kevin Marsh!

Photograph by Kevin Marsh

On sale for the month of August in kindle on Amazon UK and US  is The Belgae Torc by Kevin Marsh.
One of my favorite novels I implore you if you love Celtic history this is a must buy! 
Still not sure, alright, here's my review, "I happen to love Celtic history whether it be Irish, English, Welsh, French and even Italian Celtic history of The Gauls. So, when I read The Belgae Torc, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. Author, Kevin Marsh writes with detailed beauty and clarity about the many characters and history you'll find here. The story was engaging, and I found myself wanting to do some research about this 'Belgae Torc'. If you enjoy historical stories that are intriguing and dramatic with a well written plot and even humor, then I encourage you to give The Belgae Torc a try. I would recommend it to all my friends who enjoy Celtic history."

England 50 BC - A Celtic symbol of power and wealth, a Torc wrought from white gold, a trophy for a king. Luain Mac Lanis, warrior turned metal smith, is commissioned to make a magnificent Torc, but he knows nothing of the curse surrounding the strange metal. The only way to lift the curse is to offer the Torc to the Gods in a sacrificial ceremony. Two thousand years later the Torc is listed on the inventory of a sunken ship. Dr Orlagh Gairne, a leading archaeologist, is sent to work with Jack Harrington and his crew of salvage experts. It's Orlagh's job to identify the Torc and ensure its safe delivery to the National Museum, but the operation is not as straightforward as expected. Aided by his team of mercenaries and an historical expert, Jack unearths a wave of hatred spreading across Europe. With the past weaving tightly with the present, they must infiltrate the terrorists' lair in order to prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

Product details
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Paragon Publishing; First Edition edition (15 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908341823
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908341822

To purchase the kindle edition of The Belgae Torc in the United Kingdom on sale for 99p, AmazonUK

To purchase the kindle edition of The Belgae Torc in the United States on sale for $.1.49, Amazon US
Kevin Marsh was born in Canterbury, Kent in 1961. He lived and went to school there before attending the Technical College, (now Canterbury College), as an apprentice sheet metal worker. During his five years of training he worked in a small local company with his father and brother. In 1981 he was married and moved to Whitstable, (his father's home town).

He currently works in further education teaching steel fabrication and welding whilst writing novels and painting in his spare time. His first published novel, The Belgae Torc, was launched on 30th June 2012 and his second book, The Witness, published in March 2013. The second novel in the Torc Trilogy, The Gordian Knot, was published in July 2014.

For more about the author visit his website, Kevin Marsh Novels 

Or his blog, My novels and other things 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

My First Talk 'Why Tennyson' at Mrs. Middleton's Shop!

For the past two weeks I have been travelling through Somersby, Bag Enderby, in Lincolnshire, England, with friends Debbie Jenner of Tennyson's Birthplace on Facebook. She is a fantastic person with such depth and knowledge of Alfred Lord Tennyson and his early life.  It was a privilege to stay with her and share all things Tennyson related.  Along for the ride was Isle of Wight resident and friend, Evie Hodgson of Tennyson Cottages and Farm in Freshwater, Isle of Wight.  While there, I met another pen friend and shop owner of Mrs. Middleton's Shop, Gail Middleton.  She asked me if I wanted to give a talk on one of the questions I am most asked in person, 'Why Tennyson'?

So, for the first time ever so far, I found myself sitting at her table inside her shop answering that question amongst other things. There was a lot of construction going on that day, so unfortunately, you will hear drilling noises in the background.  Thank you to Gail Middleton for asking and inviting me to give this talk on Why Tennyson?

It is my first talk, so I am still in the process of learning the ins and outs of speaking in public, in a public forum, especially while being  videotaped!  NOTE TO SELF:  try not to make so many facial expressions!  I had no idea! Its rough folks but natural and off the cuff.  I hope my passion, as always, comes through.  I will only get better in time and lots of practice.

A book review of The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse

New York Times  bestselling author Kate Mosse returns with  The Ghost Ship , a sweeping historical epic of adventure on the high seas. The B...