‘Across the Pond’ - Transatlantic Tennyson

Tennyson was always a performer, and concentrated very much on his looks. During his years at Farringford he grew the large beard which subsequently became famous. . .

Tennyson was always a performer, and concentrated very much on his looks, and also the looks of his family. During his years at Farringford he grew the large beard which subsequently became famous, and which Emily reportedly asked guests not to laugh at. A Watts painting near the door of the dining room at Farringford shows Lionel and Hallam, Tennyson’s sons with long hair and dressed in velvet tunics, an unconventional look for most Victorian boys.

Tennyson's Walking Outfit

A part of Tennyson’s carefully curated style was his walking outfit, displayed in his bedroom upstairs, a large cloak and hat gave the poet, it seems to me, an uncanny resemblance to a plague doctor or the grim-reaper. However, Tennyson’s looks, although sniggered at by the English, were much loved by Americans.

'Most Romantic, Poetic and Interesting'

Michael Thorn’s book Tennyson describes how Nathaniel Hawthorne is said to have found his ‘careless’ look ‘most romantic, poetic and interesting’ and Walt Whitman to have found a photograph which the poet sent to him in the post ‘Superb’. Nevertheless, Tennyson didn’t impress all of his American guests, Henry James, who met the poet frequently in London and visited Farringford, spent many of his meetings with Tennyson composing amusing anecdotes, often to the poet’s detriment.

Tennyson entertained a series of American poets during his time at Farringford, including the little known poet Frederick Tuckerman, and Thomas Higginson, the editor of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. However, Tennyson’s relationships with American Poets didn’t prevent what has been reported as a general dislike for America, commenting once:

‘There is a chance that your country may turn out the most immoral the world has ever seen’

To see the Watts' painting, Tennyson's walking outfit and many other artefacts visit Farringford Historic House

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