09 February 2009

Tennyson Bicentenary

It does seem remarkable that 2009 marks the bicentenary of Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allan Poe, and Alfred Tennyson. (Darwin and Lincoln were, in fact, born on the same day.) Although an exhibition last year sought to explore the ties between Darwin and William Morris, and while Morris's politics and ideals might owe something to Lincoln's, the real connection—for Morrisians at least—is with Tennyson. William Morris was a reader and admirer of the poet laureate; his own early poems owed much to Tennyson in theme and manner; in due course the two men became acquainted; finally, Tennyson's Maud was reprinted by the Kelmscott Press in 1893.

There are many events scheudled to mark the Tennyson anniversary, and a full schedule will be found on a site maintained by the Lincolnshire County Council. Two of particular interest are a lecture, on "Morris and Tennyson," by Peter Faulkner, to be given at Kelmscott House in Saturday, 3 March (see 2009 William Morris Events in the UK for details) and an exhibition, Tennyson Transformed, taking place 30 May - 31 August at The Collection, in Lincoln. Alfred Tennyson's influence on Victorian culture was not just literary: he inspired an extraordinary range of artists and designers. This major exhibition at The Collection will assemble vivid examples of artistic responses to Tennyson's poetry and person by some of the best known artists of the period. Unique objects from Lincoln's Tennyson Research Centre will be displayed alongside loans from major national collections.

Other events include an International conference to be held at Cambridge, concerts, a country dance program, and lectures at various locations throughout Britain. One thing that caught our eye is The Lady of Shalott Film, produced by WAG, a group which seems to have expanded an interest in local archeology into movie-making, What is striking about the film is how clearly its visual look is influenced by spefic Pre-Raphaleite paintings—the "teaser" trailers include the death scene on the boat straight out of J. W. Waterhouse. To see for yourelf go to www.theladyofshalott.co.uk.