In Memoriam A.H.H.

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sat Dec 13 17:07:52 EST 2003


Melissa wrote:

>I think I would have been disturbed, if I were Tennyson's wife (and now I
>can't even remember if he was married; it's not my favorite period of poetry
>and I've repressed everything except _Lady of Shalott_ and _Ulysses_ because
>they make for such great strong readings_) to see him pouring so much
>affection out on Someone Else.  Maybe that also says too much about me.  :)

She seems to have put up with it; but then what else could she do?  Someone
who is dead can never demonstrate his feet of clay any more or begin to
pall on the adorer, so he is a rival one can't hope to displace from
someone's affections.  She also had to cope with having her son christened
"Hallam", which must have been trying for all concerned.  But hey, Alfred
delayed marrying her for the time it took him to write the poem, ie from
1833 till 1850, so she presumably could have gone off with someone else if
she had wanted.  Maybe she hoped he might have got it out of his system....

I once had to write comment on one set of stanzas from In Mem, section 123
I think it was, and in exasperation suggested that Tennyson, in his
capacity as the monumental mason of English poetry, was by this point in
the poem carving the acanthus leaves round the lintel of the mausoleum he
had constructed to the memory of someone he must by then have pretty-much
forgotten as a reality.

There's this vision I have of Our Alfie setting out for a walk of a
morning, in his top hat, muttering "Now what shall I write today?  Oh, I
know, I'll run up another few stanzas of In Memoriam, that'll put me in the
right mood for lunch..."

Which version of "The Lady of Shallott", or does it not matter?  And if he
had just stuck to "Ulysses" as his expression of the determination to carry
on after (instead of about) Hallam's death (which apparently it is meant to
have been), I think he might have been a better thing, that's what.

Minnow


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