Famous Visitors to Farringford

'Everybody is either a genius, or a poet, or a painter or peculiar in some way', wrote Anny Thackeray on a visit to Freshwater in 1865. Her friend wondered 'Is there nobody commonplace? As the residence of the poet laureate, Freshwater was a Mecca for intellectuals, keen to talk to him. It was compared to a French salon or Athens in the age of Pericles. Leaders of Victorian society, poets, painters and philosophers crossed the Solent and headed for Farringford. Not all were welcome to the poet. While Tennyson was a splendid host to friends who liked to walk, learn nature's secrets, large and small, to gaze at the stars and listen to his poetry recital; strangers, 'Cockneys' as he referred to tourists who invaded his privacy, were given short shrift.

The poet's closest friends on the Isle of Wight were the member of parliament Sir John Simeon and Julia Margaret Cameron, who took up photography in 1864. Among other early visitors to Farringford were Prince Albert, the artist Richard Doyle , the artist, musician and author of Nonsense stories, Edward Lear and the writer and photographer the Reverend Charles Dodgson 'Lewis Carroll', the Pre-Raphaelite artists William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, the Duke of Argyll, Queen's College and godfather to Hallam. Professor Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol, used to visit yearly and the actress Ellen Terry, came to Farringford during her few months of marriage to Watts in 1864, the year Garibaldi famously planted a Wellingtonia. Queen Emma of the Sandwich Islands had a special chair carved for her at Farringford in 1865. The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, young Prince Alamayou of Abyssinia came in 1868, the year the young Mary Fraser Tytler, future second wife of G. F. Watts, modelled for the Tennysons' closest friend and neighbour Julia Margaret Cameron. The artist Helen Allingham painted a series of pictures of Farringford, the estate and the poet himself in the latter part of his life, when the composer Professor [Sir] Charles Parry paid an unforgettable visit  in the latter part of his life.

“The cottage is great and the welcome pack of food just perfect!” Mr H

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