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Love of the Laureate

Lear wrote to Emily Tennyson in December 1851 that ‘There have been but few weeks or days within the last 8 years, that I have not been more or less in the habit of remembering or reading Tennyson’s poetry, & the amount of pleasure derived by me from them has been quite beyond reckoning.’ During his visits to the family, Lear would go out walking with Alfred and listen to the poet reading his work aloud. He would also play the piano to large groups, and in 1853 composed settings of Alfred’s poems. Lear and Alfred occasionally wrote to one another, but the majority of their correspondence was intermediated by Emily.

Edward Lear, letter to Emily Tennyson, 8 Oct 1853 (5405), including a proof publication page for his musical settings of Alfred’s poems

Edward Lear, letter to Emily Tennyson, 8 Oct 1853 (5405), including a proof publication page for his musical settings of Alfred’s poems.

Lear published 4 of his piano settings of Alfred’s poems, ‘inscribed to Mrs Alfred Tennyson’:

1. Flow down, Cold Rivulet &c.
2. Edward Gray.
3. Tears, idle tears.
4. Wind of the Western Sea.

Emily, who composed her own settings, was especially fond of Lear’s version of ‘Edward Gray’.

Transcript:

Dear Mrs Tennyson,
I write a hasty line to say that I have left a set of the songs with Franklin Lushington, for your acceptance. —
You will be sorry to hear that my lungs & throat are so much worse that I am going off at once to see the “Palms & temples of the South.”
I hope you & Alfred will like the new house. I wish I could see you, but I shall wait to see my friends with comfort in heaven — for in England is none for me. —
My love to Tennyson, & believe me, Dear Mrs. Tennyson,
Yours most sincerely,
Edward Lear.

Edward Lear, letter to Alfred Tennyson, 6 June 1855 (5413)

Letter telling him that he has sent the nonsense book for Hallam (then aged 3), before describing a slapstick scene in which ‘my monstrous act of indecorum, in letting you sit on the back seat of the Cab - was speedily avenged by Destiny’

Edward Lear, letter to Alfred Tennyson, 6 June 1855 (5413), telling him that he has sent the nonsense book for Hallam (then aged 3), before describing a slapstick scene in which ‘my monstrous act of indecorum, in letting you sit on the back seat of the

Transcript:

My dear Tennyson,
I have sent the Nonsense Book for Hallam, & I hope you will not mind taking it down to Park House.
To night I fear I shall not see you, as I dine in a remote part of town, & had promised to go to a party before trying to reach Mrs. Weld’s, which however I shall still make an effort for. — This is why I send the packet instead of bringing it.
That my monstrous act of indecorum, in letting you sit on the back seat of the Cab, — was speedily avenged by Destiny: — for, no sooner had I reached Holborn after setting you down, than the Cabwheel came off, and the Horse fell by a shock from some angry goddess in the shape of a Brewer’s dray, and altogether the vehicle was reduced to such a debased condition, that I slunk away with my black bag into the crowd, vowing that nothing should ever again induce me to sit on a front seat of a cab while a Poet occupied the back one.
I found the 8 o’clock dinner invitation, but just too late to use it. Happily I didn’t get hurt — only my shoulder jarred.
Please, please, please, please, please, please, bring out the volume soon.
I wish I could show you this “Matterhorn” painting, & my Nile drawings; but that can’t be.
Yours sincerely,
Edward Lear.

Supposing that you were in town next week, and supposing that you had no engagement on one evening, — and supposing you did not mind coming to such an awful distance as I live, — and supposing I could get Venables & Chapman & Spedding to come too — would you come & dine with me — as you must dine somewhere, & you might then go up the Nile quietly? —

Edward Lear, letter to Alfred Tennyson, 27 June 1864 (5504) writing to request a ‘nautograph’ for a lady friend.

Edward Lear, letter to Alfred Tennyson, 27 June 1864 (5504) writing to request a ‘nautograph’ for a lady friend.

This letter ends with two illustrations by Lear: ‘Portrait of an accomplished landscape painter who has received a Nautograf’ and ‘Portrait of a despairing Landscape painter who has not received a Nautograff’.

Transcript:

My dear Alfred,
I am compelled to write you a disagreeable letter: please don’t be angry. I’ll never do it any more.
It is to ask you a favour, which you will much oblige me by granting. Yet, knowing how disgusted you may be with what I ask, I am also disgusted, — asking.
What I am to ask, however, is not for myself, but for a lady, — for whom, if for anybody, you, did you know her, might not so unwillingly grant this boon as to many others.
O Lord! it’s too late to begin the matter at the end of a page, so please to turn over, and read. —
My friend, who has one of the most valuable and curious collections of Autograph notes, considers it as by no means perfect — albeit containing many very rare letters, — unless one from you be there also. And as I, (to whom she applied,) do not like to give up one of the 2 or 3 notes I have of your’s, I have resolved, (rushing in where angels fear to tread,) to ask you to write me ever so few words with your name attached, — to which end I enclose a note & paper. Any thing will do — to wit — — —
My dear Lear,
You are an ass —
A. Tennyson.
or whatever you please. Only [Greek text], [I beg, I beg], something, & so may Minerva & the nine Muses continually benefit you & wait on you.Yrs. affly.
Edward Lear.

Edward Lear, letter to Hallam Tennyson, 8 Sept 1885 (5559)

Letter including an autobiographical poem about trying to stuff three enormous volumes into his travelling trunks - the Complete Works of Shakespeare, the Holy Bible, and the Poems of Alfred Tennyson.

Edward Lear, letter to Hallam Tennyson, 8 Sept 1885 (5559) including an autobiographical poem about trying to stuff three enormous volumes into his travelling trunks – the Complete Works of Shakespeare, the Holy Bible, and the Poems of Alfred Tennyson.

Transcript:

My dear Hallam,
The Photograph arrived quite safely yesterday evening, & I am delighted with it. I am so much obliged to you. I always felt sure she had beautiful eyes, in spite of the 1st Photograph which probably was so arranged by the wife or other feminine party belonging to the Photographer who had got ugly eyes, & was jealous of all pretty ones. As soon as I get back to Sanremo I shall have the likeness framed; the face is so charming that even if it belonged to Mrs. Peregrine Pobbsquobb or anyone else & not Hallam Tennyson’s wife it would be a lovely portrait to look at. The arrangement of the hair is perfect:-how-how strange that 9 out of 10 women cannot see that such a simple matter improves their beauty, &-on the contrary-prefer [?] & other hideousnesses! Thank you my dear boy, & likewise give my thanks to your Audrey-for you have both given me a real pleasance. || I leave here tomorrow, & return to my native ‘ome at Sanremo - going by Milan & Savona - a railway journey I dread & detest-for I am but very feeble. The Chundellas were coming to see me here tomorrow, but I wrote to put them off, & to meet at Milan: it is so wet here now that there is no fun for the time being. || I send to Sanremo 120 of my 200 Tennyson illustrations, these 120 now pretty well completed. More about the whole work at a fewcher thyme. I have just had a very nice letter from your Uncle Edmund, & have made a confidence to him (& to the D of Argyll-with whom I am in correspondence about certain Nile stratifications,) which I shall repeat to you in morse, on the next leaf. I often think of you all at Aldworth & should like to be there. Give my love to your Mother & Father & to the Lionels & to your Audrey.
You are fortunate to be so happy in marriage, yet I fancy the happiness is well merited if only for your Father & Mother’s sake-not to speak of your own, which you are by no means a bad cove.
Good bye my own Hallam.
Yours affectionately,
Edward Lear

1
When leaving this beautiful blessed Briánza,
My trunks were all corded and locked except one;
But that was unfilled, through a dismal mancanza,
Nor could I determine on what should be done.

2
For, out of three volumes, (all equally bulky),
Which - travelling, — I constantly carry about,
There was room but for two. So, though angry & sulky,
I had to decide as to which to leave out.

3
A Bible! a Shakespeare! a Tennyson! — — stuffing
And cramming and squeezing were wholly in vain.
— A Tennyson! — Shakespeare! and Bible! — All puffing
Was useless, and one of the three must remain.

4
And this was the end, — (as is truth & no libel; — )
Aweary with thinking I settled my doubt.
As I packed & sent off both the Shakespeare & Bible,
And finally left the “Lord Tennyson” out!

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Last updated: 1 August 2017

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