James Joyce’s famous joke about Tennyson’s gentlemanlike and repressed poetry, in Ulysses, nicknaming him ‘Alfred, Lawn Tennyson’, becomes even more humorous if you have visited Farringford. The lawns at the front of the house are as extensive now as they were during Tennyson’s time here, and are inevitably on my mind whenever I picture the house.
Reading about Tennyson later the joke becomes more piquant as I learn that he was obsessed with his lawn at Farringford, even covering it in seaweed to fertilise it. Michael Thorne narrates in his biography Tennyson:
‘The lawns at Farringford became something of an obsession. He spent hours rolling them, picking up leaves, and even digging them up. When he went away he left instructions about which activities were, and which were not, permitted on the grass’.
Yet although there is something very amusing about the relationship between Tennyson and his lawn the setting of the lawn around Farringford is very idyllic. The association between the lawn and a holiday feeling which was present for Tennyson at Farringford is prefigured in In Memoriam A.H.H.
‘By night we linger'd on the lawn,
For underfoot the herb was dry;
And genial warmth; and o'er the sky
The silvery haze of summer drawn;’