The Pre-Eminent Victorian: A Study of Tennyson

By Joanna Richardson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE
FARRINGFORD

WHATEVER the controversy over Maud, its author could now afford to buy Farringford; and on June 4th, 1856, while the great ships passed majestically down the Solent, with the returning troops from the Crimea, the Tennysons finally took possession of the house. 'What a happy evening it was!' recalled Emily. 'He gave me my welcome and a stag-beetle came in and looked at me and played our welcome on its harp and then I had some of Enid in the dimly lighted drawing-room, with antique furniture all about.'

On September 3rd Mrs Bradley settled down to her diary, to draw a Pre-Raphaelite picture of the Laureate at home. Careful detail, adulation, overwhelming moral sentiment: no element was wanting. It was a reproduction to frame in every drawing-room:

We went to the dear Isle of Wight and spent nearly 6 weeks of thoroughly genial life, full of quiet enjoyment, my husband, my children and myself ... For ten days we had constant intercourse with Tennyson and Mrs T. Those evenings at Farringford when the poet sitting in his armchair talked of all that was in his heart, or read some favourite poems, with all the landscape lying as in a beautiful picture before us framed in by the great dark arched bow window -- are never to be forgotten. His moods are so variable, his conversation so earnest, and his knowledge so wide and minute, of all things of which he writes that it is a rare treat to be in his domestic circle where he talks freely and brightly without any of the shyness or morbidity of feeling which oppresses him in public ... Mrs T. is charming, a beautiful combination of the intellectual and practical and earnest goodness with a manner at once warm and gentle -- there is a very spiritual look about her clear brown eyes -- In that soft white Mull Muslin dress all folds sinking into each other and no edges

-98-

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