Monday, March 28, 2011

April 14, 1862 --- In Memoriam

At Osborne, the Queen meets her Poet Laureate Albert Tennyson for the first time.

Tennyson had recently dedicated his new Arthurian work, Idylls of the King, to the late Prince Albert: "These to His Memory...Hereafter, thro' all times, Albert the Good." Tennyson considered the Prince his patron as the latter had urged his selection for the Laureate vacancy created by Wordsworth's death in 1850. The dedication stanzas quite deeply touched the Queen; Princess Alice wrote the poet: "They had soothed her aching, bleeding heart. She knows also how he would have admired them."

Moreover, in the four months since Albert's death, Victoria had found great solace in Tennyson's classic, In Memoriam, heavily annotating and underlining her copy. With the grieving widow and Tennyson both in residence on the Isle of Wight, the poet received a rare invitation to visit. As usual, she finds her artistic guest unusual: "[He] is very peculiar-looking... oddly dressed, but there is no affectation about him."

Tennyson thinks the Queen has a "kind of stately innocence, such as I do not remember to have seen in any other woman." Tennyson writes a friend: "I was conscious of having spoken with great emotion... but I have a very imperfect recollection of what I did say." He did recall, with embarrassment, having said Albert would have made a great King: "As soon as it was out of my mouth, I felt what a blunder I had made." To his relief, however, the Queen quickly agrees. She notes in her journal: "When he spoke of my own loss, of that of the nation, his eyes quite filled with tears." In her mourning, the Queen compares herself to the subject of one of Tennyson's earliest poems, Mariana, a lonely widow whose grim refrain was, "I am aweary, aweary. I would that I were dead.'''

The meeting spawns a friendship lasting until the poet's death in 1892.

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