Digital Commonwealth

Emily Tennyson Letters, 1858-1873

Boston Public Library

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This collection contains 83 letters from Emily Lady Tennyson, wife of Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), primarily to Margaret Gatty, children’s author and amateur marine biologist. The letters date from the time of Lady Tennyson and Mrs. Gatty’s first meeting in November 1858 through 1873, shortly before Mrs. Gatty’s death. Covered in the letters are a variety of topics, including news of the Tennyson household and the literary activities of both families. A selection of these letters has been published in The Letters of Emily Tennyson (1974) by James O. Hodge.

The letters document many facets of daily life in the Tennyson household, as well as news of family and acquaintances. One of the primary themes is the health of both families, with various illnesses and remedies frequently described. Lady Tennyson also writes about business problems encountered by Lord Tennyson, as well as his progress on works such as “The Grandmother,” “May Queen,” and the ode sung at the opening of the London International Exhibition. In addition, she frequently includes the responses of both herself and Lord Tennyson to the Gattys’ published works, including The Poor Incumbent, The Hundredth Birthday, and collected sermons. Also of note are several letters discussing Lady Tennyson’s views regarding efforts for Irish independence. Other domestic news includes the frequent visitors to the Tennyson home, among whom are Charles and Louisa Weld, Lady Tennyson’s sister and brother-in-law; Benjamin Jowett; and Dr. Joseph Wolff.

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