Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Memories of Lord and Lady Tennyson by Bram Stoker

Henry Irving and Bram Stoker leaving the Lyceum Theatre
by the private entrance, The Irving Society

Bram Stoker known for writing the gothic novel Dracula adored the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He could recite any poem by heart at any given moment. Bram Stoker was about to meet his master through the form of Henry Irving. Henry Irving was acting royalty in England during the nineteenth-century and acting at London’s Lyceum Theatre (which he owned) when their friendship began. Irving acted and performed on the Lyceum stage and Stoker became acting manager then business manager of the Lyceum Theatre; a post which he held for twenty seven years.They remained fast friends until Irving’s death in 1905. 

I was reading Bram Stoker’s vivid memories of his meetings with Lord and Lady Tennyson which developed into a short yet quite meaningful friendship. So, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few of Bram Stoker’s memories here with you. They are quite interesting reading while shedding some light on the later years of Alfred Tennyson’s life until his death on 6 October 1892.  

It was my good fortune to meet Tennyson personally soon after my coming to live in London. On the night of March 20, 1879, he being then in London for a short stay, he came to the Lyceum to see Hamlet. It was the sixty-ninth night of the run. James Knowles was with him and introduced me. After the third act they both came round to Irving’s dressing-room. In the course of our conversation when I saw him again at the end of the play he said to me: “I did not think Irving could have improved his Hamlet of five years ago; but now he has improved it five degrees, and those five degrees have lifted it to heaven!” I remember also another thing he said: “I am seventy, and yet I don’t feel old-I wonder how it is!” I quoted as a reason his own lines from the Golden Year: 
“Unto him that works, and feels he works,
The same grand year is ever at the doors.”

He seemed mightily pleased and said:  “Good!”
After this meeting I had a good many opportunities of seeing Tennyson again. Whenever he made a trip for a few days to London it was usually my good fortune to meet him and Lady Tennyson My wife and I lunched with them; and their sons, Hallam and Lionel, spent Sunday evenings in our house in Cheyne Walk. Meeting with Tennyson and his family has given us many many happy hours in our lives, and I had the pleasure of being the guest of the great poet both at Farringford and Aldworth. I am proud to be able to call the present Lord Tennyson my friend. My wife and I were lunching with the Tennysons during their stay in London when the first copy arrived from Hubert Herkomer now Von Herkomer R.A., of his fine portrait etching of the Poet Laureate. It is an excellent portrait; but there is a look in the eye which did not altogether please the subject.” 
(You can read more about Von Herkomer in my previous article), Hubert Herkomer

 Alfred Tennyson, Poet Laureate by Sir Hubert Von Herkomer R.A., 1879 (w/c on paper)

Aldworth (Tennyson's house) Haslemere, Surrey, England, UK

“In the autumn of 1890, in response to a kindly invitation, Irving visited Aldworth, the lovely home which Tennyson made for himself under the brow of Blackdown. It was nine years since the two men had had opportunity for a real talk. Sunday, October 19, was fixed for the visit. I was invited to lunch also, and needless to say I looked forward to the visit, for it was to be the first opportunity I should have of seeing Tennyson in his own home. 

On the Sunday morning Irving and  I made an early start, leaving Victoria Station by the train at 8:45 and arriving at Haslemere a little after half-past ten. Blackdown is just under mountain height one thousand feet. 

Hallam met us at the door. When we entered the wide hall, one of the noticeable things was quite a number of the picturesque wide-brimmed felt hats which Tennyson always wore. I could not but notice them. 

After a short visit to Lady Tennyson in the drawing-room we were brought upstairs to Tennyson’s study, a great room over the drawing-room, with mullioned windows facing south and west. We entered from behind a great eight-fold screen some seven or eight feet high. In the room were many tall bookcases. The mullioned windows let in a flood of light. Tennyson was sitting at a table in the western window writing in a book of copybook size with black cover. His writing was very firm. He had on a black skull-cap. As we entered he held up his hand saying:
“Just one minute if you don’t mind. I am almost finished!” 

When he had done he threw down his pen and rising quickly came towards us with open handed welcome.

I went with Hallam to his own study, leaving Irving alone with Tennyson. Half an hour later we joined them and we all went out for a walk. In the garden Tennyson pointed out to us some blue flowering pea which had been reared from seed. He stooped a little as he walked; he was then eighty-two, but seemed strong and was very cheerful sometimes even merry. 
Alfred Tennyson's wolf hound, Katerina

With us came his great Russian wolfhound which seemed devoted to him. We walked through the grounds and woods for some three miles altogether, Hallam and Irving walking in front. As I walked with Tennyson we had much conversation, every word of which comes back to me. I was so fond of him and admired him so much that I could not, I think, forget if I tried anything which he said. Amongst other things he mentioned a little incident at Farringford, when in his own grounds an effusive lady, a stranger, said at rather than to him, of course alluding to the berries of the wild rose, then in profusion:

“What beautiful hips!”
“I am so glad you admire ‘em, ma’am!” he had answered, and he laughed heartily at the memory. I mention this as an instance of his love of humour. He had intense enjoyment of it.

“When we go in I want to read you something which I have just finished; but you must not say anything about it yet!” 

“All right!” I said, “of course I shall not. But why, may I ask, do you wish it so?”

“Well, you see,” he said, “I have to be careful. If it is known that I am writing on a particular subject I get a dozen poems on it the next day. And then when mine comes out they say I palgiarised them!”

That talk was full of very interesting memories. This stanza of In Memoriam had always been a favourite of mine, and when I told him so, he said:

“Repeat it!” I did so, again feeling as if I were being weighed up. When I had finished:

“He told it not; or something seal’d
The lips of that Evangelist:”

He turned to me and said:
“Do you know that when that was published they said I was scoffing. But” here both face and voice grew very very grave “I did not mean to scoff!” 

When I told him of my wonder as to how any sane  person could have taken such an idea from such a faithful, tender, understanding poem he went on to speak of faith and the need of faith. But his finishing sentence I shall never forget. Indeed had I forgotten for the time I should have remembered it from what he said the last interview I had with him just before his death:

“You know I don’t believe in an eternal hell, with an All merciful God. I believe in the All merciful God! It would be better otherwise that men should believe they are only ephemera!”

When we returned to the house we lunched, Lady Tennyson and Mrs. Hallam Tennyson having joined us. Then we went up again to the study, and Tennyson, taking from the table the book in which he had been writing, read us the last written poem, The Churchwarden and the Curate. He read it in the Lincolnshire dialect, which is much simpler when heard than read. The broadness of the vowels and their rustic prolongation, rather than drawl, adds force and also humour. I shall never forget the intense effect of the last lines of the tenth stanza. The shrewd worldly wisdom which was plain sincerity of understanding without cynicism.
The Church-Warden And The Curate 
By Alfred Lord Tennyson
 Eh? good daay! good daay! thaw it beant not mooch of a daay, Nasty, casselty weather! an mea Haafe down wi my haay!

 How be the farm gittin on? noaways. Gittin on ideead! Why, tonups was Haafe on em fingers an toas, an the mare brokken-kneead, An pigs didnt sell at fall, an wa lost wer Haldeny cow, An it beats ma to knaw wot she died on, but wools looking oop ony how.

An soa theyve maade tha a parson, an thoull git along, niver fear, Fur I bean chuch-warden mysen i the parish fur fifteen year. Wellsin ther bea chuch-wardens, ther mun be parsons an all, An if tone stick alongside tuther the chuch weant happen a fall.

Fur I wur a Baptis wonst, an agean the toithe an the raate, Till I fun that it warnt not the gaainist waay to the narra Gaate. An I cant abear em, I cant, fur a lot on em coomd ta-year I wur down wi the rheumatis thento my pond to wesh thessens theere Sa I sticks like the ivin as long as I lives to the owd chuch now, Fur they weshd their sins i my pond, an I doubts they poisond the cow.

 Ay, an ya seed the Bishop. They says at he coomd fra nowt Burn i traade. Sa I warrants e niver said haafe wot e thowt, But e creeapt an e crawld along, till e feeald e could howd is oan, Then e married a great Yerls darter, an sits o the Bishops throan.

Now Ill gie the a bit o my mind an tha weant be taakin offence, Fur thou be a big scholard now wi a hoonderd haacre o sense But sich an obstropulous ladnaay, naayfur I minds tha sa well, Thad niver not hopple thy tongue, an the tongues sit afire o Hell, As I says to my missis to-daay, when she hurld a plaate at the cat An anoother agean my noase. Ya was niver sa bad as that.

But I minds when i Howlaby beck won daay ya was ticklin o trout, An keeaper e seed ya an roond, an e beald to ya Lad coom hout An ya stood oop naakt i the beck, an ya telld im to knaw his awn plaace An ye calld im a clown, ya did, an ya thrawd the fish i is faace, An e tornd as red as a stag-tuckeys wattles, but theer an then I coambd im down, fur I promised yad niver not do it agean.

An I cotchd tha wonst i my garden, when thou was a height-year-howd, An I fun thy pockets as full o my pippins as iver theyd owd, (16) An thou was as pearky  as owt, an tha maade me as mad as mad, But I says to the keeap em, an welcome fur thou was the Parsons lad.

 An Parson e ears on it all, an then taakes kindly to me, An then I wur chose Chuch-warden an coomd to the top o the tree, Fur Quolotys hall my friends, an they maakes ma a help to the poor, When I gits the plaate fuller o Soondays nor ony chuch-warden afoor, Fur if iver thy feythered riled me I kep mysen meeak as a lamb, An saw by the Graace o the Lord, Mr. Harry, I ham wot I ham.

 But Parson e will speak out, saw, now e be sixty-seven, Hell niver swap Owlby an Scratby fur owt but the Kingdom o Heaven: An thouII be is Curate ere, but, if iver tha means to git igher, The mun tackle the sins o the Wold,  an not the faults o the Squire. An I reckons thall light of a livin some-wheers i the Wowd or the Fen, If tha cottons down to thy betters, an keeaps thysen to thysen. But niver not speak plaain out, if tha wants to git forrards a bit, But creeap along the hedge-bottoms, an thoull be a Bishop yit.

Naay, but tha mun speak hout to the Baptises here i the town, Fur moast on em talks agean tithe, an Id like the to preach em down, Fur theyve bin a-preachin mea down, they heve, an I haates em now, Fur they leaved their nasty sins i my pond, an it poisond the cow.

Emily, Hallam and Alfred at Aldworth by Henry Cameron, late 1889. 

On September 25, 1892, my wife and I spent the day with Lord and Lady Tennyson at Aldworth. We were to have gone a week earlier, but as Tennyson was not well the visit was postponed.
We sat while Lady Tennyson, who was in the drawing room on a sofa away from the light. She had long been an invalid. She was perhaps the most sweet and saintly woman I ever met, and had a wonderful memory.

Once again Tennyson seemed troubled about the press, and was bitter against certain newspaper prying. He could not get free from it. It had been found out during his illness that the beggar man who came daily for the broken meat was getting ten shillings a week from a local reporter to come and tell him the gossip of the kitchen. Turning to me he said:

“Don’t let them know how ill I am, or they’ll have me buried before twenty four hours!”
Then after a while he added:

“Can’t they all let me alone. What did they want digging up the graves of my father and mother and my grandfather and grandmother. I sometimes wish I had never written a line!”
I said:
“Ah, don’t say that! Don’t think it! You have given delight to too many millions, and your words have done too much good for you to wish to take them back. And the good and the pleasure are to go on for all the future.” After a moment’s thought he said very softly:

“Well, perhaps you’re right!  But can’t they leave me alone!”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Current Exhibition: Painting with Light Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age Tate Britain: Exhibition 11 May – 25 September 2016

Prosperine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1874, oil on canvas - The Odor of Pomegranates by Zaida Ben-Yusuf, 1899, Photogravure on paper

Tate Britain, London presents: Painting with Light  Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age exhibition running from 11 May-25 September 2016. 

This is the first major exhibition to celebrate the spirited conversation between early photography and British art. It brings together photographs and paintings including Pre-Raphaelite, Aesthetic and British impressionist works. 

Spanning 75 years across the Victorian and Edwardian ages, the exhibition opens with the experimental beginnings of photography in dialogue with painters such as J.M.W. Turner. For the first time works by painters John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Singer Sargent will be shown alongside ravishing photographs by pivotal early photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron, which they inspired and which inspired them.
exhibition catalogue featuring cover photograph
Decorative Study by Minna Keene, 1906
© Royal Photographic Society / National Media Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library
An exploration of the relationship between photography, painting and sculpture, from the 1840s to 1914
Photography was entangled with art from the very moment of its invention by painter and printmaker Louis Daguerre in 1839. Painting with Light is the first publication to explore photography's complex and fascinating inter-relationship with painting and sculpture in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Opening with the experimental beginnings of the medium in the 1830s and 40s, the book covers the full range of photography in Britain up to the early 1900s, concluding with its flowering as a distinct art form in Pictorialism, which sought to express emotional and imaginative states through the photographic image.
 Spanning seventy-five years from the daguerreotype to very early colour photography, the book explores pioneer photographers, the Pre-Raphaelite circle and ravishing Symbolist and Pictorialist works, including landscapes and life studies, documentary and scientific realism, and images that experimented with atmospheric and psychological effects. Organised chronologically, it features essays on the camera before the1840s; David Octavius Hill's pioneering photography studio; the connections between early photographic and artistic approaches to nature; social realism; and anti-naturalism and the supernatural. It uncovers the issues raised by exchanges between photography and other media, many of them still live today, from the question of copying versus creating and truth versus lies to artist versus machine and tradition versus modernity. Mixing iconic and rarely seen works, Photography into Art includes over one hundred illustrations accompanied by refreshing new scholarship - making this the essential book for collectors, gallery goers and photography enthusiasts alike 
Tate Britain
Millbank, London SW1P 4RG, 
United Kingdom

To purchase tickets to the exhibition or for more information, Painting with Light

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My review of an upcoming release, The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose

Nestled within Paris's historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protege to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city's fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone. 

So it is from La Fantasie Russie's workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline's creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris's most famous courtesans. 

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can't deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message directly to her. 

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family.
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (19 July 2016)
I love the way M.j. Rose writes. She creates such a vividly compelling world for the reader to inhabit. I fall under her spell, captured by the setting, plot, storyline and of course beautiful Paris. Overall, The Secret Language of Stones is a beautifully written novel. All the elements are here. My most favorite chapters included the relationship between Opaline Duplessi and Jean-Luc Foret the art columnist who happens to be a ghost haunting her while introducing her to erotic passion. I loved his letters to her, the way he sent her on walking tours throughout Pere Lechaise cemetery on a love tour with the graves of Heloise and Abelard. She hears his voice, senses his feelings, while he hears her thoughts and reads her mind. Also, the walking tour through Louvre Museum featuring the rose tapestry, Wattau paintings and so much more. I enjoyed her family background including witchcraft and her ability to sense through touching stones. It was a pleasure to read the chapters where you learned more about Opaline's parents and great-grandmother.

The chapters I struggled with included the character of Anna whom I just couldn't connect with although I wanted to. The chapters covering Russia again I just found distracted me. All I wanted was to stay in Paris with the young lovers surrounded by art museums and cemeteries but that's probably just me!

You will find beautiful love stories, some unrequited, some supernatural, some heartbreaking but overall The Secret Language of Stones will captivate and enchant you.
I was fortunate to read a digital review copy. The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose will be published in Hardcover in the United Kingdom and United States on July 19, 2016.  
To pre-order The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose,  Amazon UK 
To pre-order The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose,   Amazon US

A review of Fifteen Wild Decembers by Karen Powell

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