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!


kriswaldherr said…
So wonderful!!! So glad you had this experience. I felt similarly when I first viewed Rossetti's early watercolors in the bowels of the Tate—emotional and overwhelmed and grateful.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi and thank you for reading and commenting on my post, Mrs. O!

Hi Kris,
I am so happy you are here. I know you completely understand my perspective.
I can't believe you were in the bowels of The Tate looking at Rossetti's!
I want to hear all about it next time we see each other.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.
Kevin Marsh said…
Hello Kimberly,

What lovely photographs and nicely copyrighted too. :-)
You obviously enjoyed your visit very much.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Kevin,
Thanks Kevin for stopping by. Yes, sadly, I must copyright my photographs used here as a result of bloggers posting my research information, photos, etc., without mentioning they found it here!

Hi Debbie,
Hugs to you and so happy you stopped by! xx
WoofWoof said…
Wonderful post, Kimberly. I can just hear the passion as you describe your experiences. I have been a Tennyson fanatic for over 30 years now (since reading Break break break) but have never made it to Lincolnshire. I felt much as you describe above when I first visited Farringford House. Looking forward to hearing about your visit there no doubt in a future post!
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi WoofWoof,

It makes me so happy to be able to share my travel and Tennyson themed experiences with you and everyone here. Wait until you read my Farringford House experience. It was surreal to say the least. Great photos of myself at the front door touching the walls of Farringford...much more to come and thanks so much for your loyal following xx
Hels said…
The completion of history meeting reality.... bliss :)

Your guide took you to the two most important sites, Somersby Rectory of course and Bag Enderby Church. Lincolnshire has heaps of Tennyson connections, but for a rector's family, the church-related sites are unbeatable.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi ya Hels,

Yes, my trip was bliss. My friends made sure I saw all the important Tennyson sites and I am continually grateful for their friendship.

Thanks for stopping by!
Beautifully written; I felt all the wonder you felt and wished I too could have walked through that house and looked through that window. What a melancholy poem! What an interesting man he must have been to find corners for solitude amid that huge family!
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Stephanie,

I wish you could've been there with me every step of the way but hopefully posts such as this make people feel a bit of what I experienced. Yes, Alfred Tennyson was such an interesting person and very funny!
Nick Holland said…
A wonderful and heartfelt article Kimberly - this should be the first step for anyone wanting to know more about the great man.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Nick,
I am so glad you're here! Thank you for such lovely words. Who knows maybe one day soon a different book on Alfred Tennyson may be published! :)