The Pre-Eminent Victorian: A Study of Tennyson

By Joanna Richardson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
MR AND MRS TENNYSON

A FORTNIGHT after the publication of In Memoriam, Elizabeth Barrett Browning reported that Tennyson 'stands already on a pedestal, and is recognized as a master spirit by the great public'. The year that established his fame was also to establish his lifelong happiness.

Ten years of 'great misery' may have made Emily Sellwood 'somewhat prematurely old', but, as her family knew, they had not changed her affection; and in the spring of 1850, when Tennyson sent a privately printed copy of his Elegies to his friend Drummond Rawnsley, vicar of Shiplake-on-Thames, Catherine Rawnsley, Emily's cousin, seized her chance with acumen, and sent the book on to Emily.

My dearest Katie [ Emily answered on April 1st],
... Do you really think I should write a line with the
Elegies, that is in a separate note, to say I have returned
them? I am almost afraid, but since you say I am to do so
I will, only I cannot say what I feel ...

In May she and Alfred met 'at my cousin's house'.

For the past fourteen years, since he had seen her at his brother's wedding, Alfred had considered no other woman. He was more kingly than ever; and, at forty-one, he believed more than ever 'that he must marry and find love and peace or die'. Emily was thirty-seven; but 'the longer one lives,' she told her sister, Mrs Weld, 'the more one feels how serious nay how momentous an affair marriage is.' In the last decade, in her loneliness, as she watched Alfred's growing fame, she had turned in sadly upon herself: she had grown anxious, uncertain, apprehensive. 'In all these years,' she confessed in her journal, 'I had lost courage and I don't know if I should ever have ventured to become his wife knowing the greatness of the responsibility had not Kingsley not merely encouraged but urged me.'

-62-

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