I began my weekend in Lincoln, beautiful cathedral city and home to the massive bronze statue of Tennyson...
|The BFT (Big, Friendly Tennyson)|
Watts was Tennyson's neighbour in Freshwater and close friend, meeting in 1857 in Little Holland House in Kensington. After the poet's death, Watts began work on the monument, finishing it ready for casting in 1903. Watts died before the statue was in place in 1905. The quote "Over all one statue in the mould of Arthur made by Merlin" is very touching and tells you something of the relationship between the two men.
Under the plaque of his name on the front of the plinth is a poem from 1863:
Flower in the crannied wall,I love this piece of poetry and it seems rather apt for my journey. As Tennyson felt and acknowledged frustration at his attempts to understand the flower (and by extension, everything), so too can a biographer feel frustrated trying to understand a person by the pieces we have of them, out of context. To that end, I waved goodbye to BFT and headed east in search of context...
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
First stop, Horncastle. Birthplace of Emily, wife of Alfred Lord Tennyson, and home to a vast array of antique shops. Emily's father was a solicitor, Henry Sellwood, and according to the 1841 census they lived in the Market Place. Her uncle was the explorer John Franklin who died horribly during Arctic exploration (as seems to be traditional). A statue to him is in the market place of Spilsby, another market town to the south and east of Horncastle. Passing through the very pleasant Horncastle, I was intent on finding Somersby, birthplace of Tennyson...
|Former vicarage, home of Alfred Tennyson, Somersby|
|St Margaret's, Somersby|
It was very exciting to see how much work is being undertaken and the skillful and thorough steps that are being taken to ensure the safety of the building. It should be reopened to visitors in the autumn.
|St Margaret's, Bag Enderby|
Awesome. There is the sister church to Somersby, where George Tennyson would walk after delivering a 'long and impenetrable sermon' in order to deliver another long and equally impenetrable sermon for the good people of Bag Enderby. Currently this is where the local history display of Tennyson's Lincolnshire life is being housed. I especially like my new tea towel...
It doesn't get any more English than a souvenir tea towel.
|Inside St Margaret's, Bag Enderby|
On then to the market town of Louth, the Capital of the Wolds, which felt positively urban in contrast to the hamlets. Tennyson was sent here to the Grammar school (since replaced by a red brick building) which Tennyson hated for the bullying and harsh discipline. After four miserable years he was allowed to return home to be taught by his father (which presumably was occasionally little better). Happier is the fact that Louth is the place of Tennyson's first publisher...
Jacksons, booksellers and printers in the Market Place, Louth, were the first to publish work by Tennyson and his brother, in 1827 (it's now an Oxfam shop). Jacksons paid the Tennyson brothers £20 which they spent on hiring a carriage and riding to nearby Mablethorpe and shouting their poetry at the sea. Now quite a recognised holiday place due to the railway link of 1877, the beautiful golden sands were still a local draw half a century previous. Google it, it's beautiful. In fact shout some poetry at an image of the beach. Go on, it's traditional.
|Alfred Tennyson (1831) attrib. James Spedding|
As much as I regretted leaving young Mr Tennyson as I travelled south, I shall see the older Mr Tennyson again soon. I'm over to the Wight on Friday...