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In Memoriam A.H.H. by Alfred Tennyson

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In Memoriam A.H.H.  is Alfred Tennyson’s greatest poem.  Its 131 lyrics, published anonymously in 1850, were written over many years in response to the sudden death of his closest friend, Arthur Hallam, in 1833.  The poem is profoundly, intensely private and yet speaks for the whole Victorian age, an age where death, grief and its consequences – despair, religious doubt, anxiety, withdrawal and then deliberate public engagement – became a defining emotional journey of the time. 

Arthur Hallam

Arthur Hallam was born February 1st 1811, eighteen months after Tennyson.  The two young men met at Trinity College, Cambridge.  Hallam’s youth and education had been very different from that of Tennyson.  He was confident and urbane.  He had been to Eton with Gladstone, had travelled extensively in Europe and was ambitious and wealthy.  He opened the door to a wholly different world for Tennyson whose father’s mental health was deteriorating violently and whose brother, Frederick, had been ‘sent down’ from Cambridge for a year.  Arthur Hallam appears to have been a very charismatic figure.  His friends, including Gladstone, were referring to him years later in poems and memoirs as an important figure in their life and a figure who would have had an important role in public life.  Hallam and Tennyson went on holiday together, visited each other’s homes, dedicated work to each other and Hallam published a review of Tennyson’s 1830 volume in the ‘Englishman’s Magazine’ Arthur Hallam fell in love with Tennyson’s sister, Emily, and their engagement was recognized in 1833 before he and his father, the historian Henry Hallam, went on tour.  It was in Vienna that Arthur died of ‘apoplexy’.  The length of time for news to travel is remarkable for us: he died on 15th September, on 1st October, Tennyson was sent the news, probably only receiving it on the 6th October.  The Hallam family learned the news on 28th September and he was not buried until 3rd January 1834 after his body arrived home by boat.

Associated items of interest in the Tennyson Research Centre

In Memoriam.  London: Moxon 1850.  12 mo.  1st edition. Original purple brown cloth; in a cloth box.  Presented in June 1850, the month of publication, by Julia Hallam (sister of Arthur Hallam) to Lady Palgrave (mother of editor of The Golden Treasury.)   Inserted in this volume are

  • A transcript in Julia Hallam’s hand of stanzas added to the fourth edition:  ‘O Sorrow, wilt thou live with me….’
  • An autograph letter dated 1850 from Henry Hallam , Julia and Arthur’s father) referring to the arrival home by ship of the body of his other son, Henry Hallam, whose marginal pencillings Julia has also copied in to this volume
  • Original ms of ‘Rosy plumelets..’ LyricXCI   See exhibition.  It was given to Lady Palgrave’s son, Francis Turner Palgrave by Alfred Tennyson who offered him ‘ the choice of any poem which I chose form the original M.S.: he cut this out & fixed it in the book with his usual thoughtful kindness…’  They were torn from the top of  page 61 in the manuscript .

In 1909, the volume, then owned by Gwenllian F Palgrave, was exhibited in the Tennyson Centenary Exhibition at the Fine Art Society; but it then disappeared from view until turning up for sale in 1989, having been in the libraries of two American book collectors, Harold Greenhill and H. Bradley Martin.  (Tennyson Research Bulletin, Volume 5 Number 4 November 1990.)

M51.  Poems by Arthur Hallam.  In Emily Tennyson’s hand. 1831.

Poems by Arthur Hallam.  Privately printed.  Given to Emily Tennyson on her wedding day to Richard Jesse.  Jesse must have felt occasionally like he was rival to a ghost:  his first son with Emily was named Arthur Henry Hallam.

In Memoriam.  London: Moxon 1850.  12 mo.  1st edition. Original purple brown cloth; in a cloth box.  Presented in June 1850, the month of publication by Julia Hallam (sister of Arthur Hallam) to Lady Palgrave (wife of editor of The Golden Treasury.)  Inserted in this volume are

  • A transcript in Julia Hallam’s hand of stanzas added to the fourth edition:  ‘O Sorrow, wilt thou live with me….’
  • An autograph letter dated 1850 from Henry Hallam , Julia and Arthur’s father) referring to the arrival home by ship of the body of his other son, Henry Hallam.
  • Original ms of ‘Rosy plumelets..’ LyricXCI  See exhibition.  It was given to Lady Palgrave by Alfred Tennyson who offered her her choice of stanzas and fixed them to her copy himself.  They were torn from the top of  page 61 in the manuscript .

Further Reading

The Poems of Tennyson edited by Christopher Ricks Volume Two (1987) pp304ff.  This edition of Tennyson’s poetry is the standard text.

In Memoriam edited by Susan Shatto and Marian Shaw 1982.  This edition collates all the manuscripts and has a full description of the Lincoln manuscript and its role in the final publication.

 

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Last updated: 23 February 2011

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