Ray Dyer has traced Tennyson's growing importance to Lewis Carroll, as he came to fill the roles of father-figure and admired "poet-bard." After a period of detachment, the connection resumed in Carroll's later writings. Note the form of the multi-volume citations below. Diaries, I: 51-52 note 1 appears as follows: Diaries 1.51-52n1. [Click on the illustrations to enlarge them, and for more information about them where available. — JB]

Final Glances, 1889-1898

1889. December 12-13. Lewis Carroll at last succeeded in publishing Part One of his lengthy new children's fairytale Sylvie and Bruno. The Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson on the same day presented his own final public offering, Demeter and Other Poems, by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The works of both authors were published, like the rest of their books, by the same publishing house: Macmillan and Co. of London and New York.

Unlike the ailing Tennyson, Carroll continued to travel frequently in and out of London, and was not averse to probing into all relevant affairs of interest to him. The synchronicity of these late works by the two estranged writers has all the hallmarks of the clever pre-planning which we have noted previously in Carroll's private and published projects. His familiarity with the internal workings of the publishing house could certainly have extended to early previews of Tennyson's pages. As early as Tuesday 15 January 1889 Carroll's journal had noted "To town: called at Macmillan's," whilst entries for December are more revealing of the publisher's lax management which could well have helped him to satisfy his curiosity. The management, he noted, "seems to be falling off, now that Mr. Macmillan (who is very old) is no longer on the spot." A day later he complained about "further proof of incompetent managing at Macmillan's" (Diaries 8: 443, 494-5). In person, Tennyson had remained distant and unapproachable, but the literary and the internalised figure persisted, and continued to influence the younger writer. This may be seen in Carroll's own new work of fiction, replete with the Arthurian romanticism expressed, from the second chapter onwards, through Tennysonian allusions, themes and borrowed quotations.

1890. Saturday 31 May. In town (London) for the Royal Academy in the morning, Carroll then went in the afternoon to Agnew's Old Bond Street Gallery. There his enduring involvement with Arthurian materials was well in evidence in the form of Edward Burne-Jones's "lovely series of four pictures on The Legend of The Briar-Rose" (Diaries 8: 511-12 & n825). By October of this year Carroll was making the acquaintance of yet another venerable older writer, Coventry Patmore. Friend of Tennyson, Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites among others, Patmore had first been recorded in Carroll's thoughts as early as 1855, when as a young Oxford student completing his B. A. Carroll had become interested in the older poet's lengthy The Angel in The House (four volumes, 1854-62), with its themes of courtship and marital love described in "deep thought…beautiful language …[and an]…"entirely original" style (Diaries 1: 115). In July 1862 Carroll had placed Patmore in a list of "our living poets," together with Tennyson, Massey, Dobell, Browning, Christina Rossetti, Henry Taylor and some few others (Diaries 4: 109).

Coventry Patmore.

Patmore was living in Hastings and within easy reach of Carroll during the latter's long annual sojourn in Eastbourne. Apparently Patmore too had passed through some form of "fallen friendship" with the living Poet Laureate (see Part II for Carroll's experience), perhaps derived in his case from an eventual divergence in style and emphasis from Tennyson. After some unrecorded prior correspondence Patmore wrote to Carroll with an "undated (but 6 October)" instruction on how to find him "four miles and a half from Battle station…by the 11.43 from Eastbourne …" (Diaries 8: 534-35 & n859). The meeting was a success, with Carroll "very kindly received" and staying for afternoon tea and dinner. Conversation perhaps inevitably dwelt upon Tennyson, with Patmore relating how he had, at Tennyson's request, helped the Laureate find and recover the missing original MS for In Memoriam. Other notables touched upon by the widely experienced and knowledgeable Patmore included Wordsworth and Holman Hunt. Lewis Carroll's journal does not record his own input into these conversations, though it may be inferred from the presence of so many references to eminent names deeply admired by the visiting author. Moreover, just the previous week and on another of his "favourite days" — "lucky Tuesday," 30 September, Carroll with his younger sister Louisa had attended a lecture in Guildford "on the In Memoriam" (Diaries 8: 533). Tennyson, it would seem, was still never very far from Lewis Carroll's thoughts.

The Chestnuts, Carroll's sisters' home in Guildford.

1891. Thursday 23 July. During his first week at Eastbourne Carroll again walked to Beachy Head. By Monday 24 August he had returned to visit the Isle of Wight, albeit only to Shanklin on the side furthest from one of his most acute Tennyson-related disappointments. Four days were then passed with recent friends who were known to be holidaying there (Diaries 8: 569, 576).

1891. Wednesday 2 September. An interesting late direct mention of Tennyson appears in Lewis Carroll's journal. At Eastbourne he had called upon Mrs. Lucy Bethia Walford, 1845-1915, contributor to Blackwood's Magazine and "author of 'Mr. Smith,' 'The Baby's Grandmother.'" Carroll had made her acquaintance during his stay there, and he now recorded that "She had tried, but failed, to get acquaintance with Tennyson" (Diaries 8: 577).

1892. Saturday 4 June: "Called on Mrs. Weld [in Oxford], and had a chat with her and Agnes (626). If these relations of Tennyson passed on any news of the ailing Laureate's health, it did not appear in Carroll's regular journal entries.

Death of Alfred Lord Tennyson

1892. Thursday 6 October. At Eastbourne on this day Lewis Carroll recorded in his journal just four words: "Death of Alfred Tennyson." (Diaries 9: 32). No further entries were made until the following Tuesday, an unusually long hiatus during Carroll's restorative Eastbourne months. Resuming his entries on that day, he simply wrote: "Took May Miller for a walk." The young woman, part of a larger family group holidaying in Eastbourne, was then twenty-four years old. Carroll had known her since August 1881 when he had first met her there as an adolescent schoolgirl.

The Remains of Lord Tennyson in St. Faith's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, The Night Before the Funeral (from the Illustrated London News).

Needless to say "all England" was mourning the departed Laureate, with Queen Victoria herself thanking his son Hallam for the prompt telegram, and noting that "he has left undying works behind him which we shall ever treasure," (Hallam Tennyson 2: 455). As noted above, the failing Poet Laureate had hurried into print in 1889 with his final collection of poetry. Outstanding there was his valediction in a mere four stanzas - "Crossing The Bar." Richly laden with imagery and associations, both nostalgically maritime for Imperial Britain, and endearingly optimistic for himself as an individual, the great and pious Tennyson accepted the inevitability of an unknown final, personal voyage: it was a great and prescient farewell from a great Victorian, and one which could not fail to have moved even a taciturn and contrarian Lewis Carroll.

Carroll's final salute to his early poet-idol went largely unacknowledged and unobserved, because it was disguised and partially concealed. But it was nonetheless heartfelt, recurring throughout his final major children's work, in the last of the two volumes. He had been struggling with this for a decade at least, as he inserted into the major "below ground" fairy story an even more complex "above ground" everyday Victorian mise-en-scène (Dyer, 2016). This literary effort largely took place during his regular Eastbourne years of glowing summers, which nevertheless had their melancholy intervals. Even the earlier volume, Part One, rushed out (or delayed?) to coincide with Tennyson's book of December 1889, appears to have acquired a further appropriate borrowing from Tennyson, though with little time for any fuller concealment. This can be found towards the close of Sylvie and Bruno, in the almost penultimate Chapter XXII, where a tense situation unfolds with the fairy children, when a brave adult has to save the careless fairy boy from the railway tracks in the face of an oncoming express. Carroll embedded in the original such phrases as "coming across the line," "on the line," "cross the rails" and "recrossed the line." In the chapter heading and caption to the single illustration he uses the more finely balanced phrase "Crossing The Line," suggesting a late borrowing, a hidden wish to bear deep - though silent - witness to his early mentor's memorable "Crossing The Bar." The final print phase for Carroll's book [this one brought out by Richard Clay & Sons, Oxford] appears to have been no later than 17 October 1889 (Dyer 2015, xlvi, "Schematic Gestation": 15), allowing a possible though very narrow window for him to have encountered and reflected upon Tennyson's poem, especially if Mrs. Weld or Mrs. Pope, both of them then living in Oxford, had happened to inform him of their venerable relation's forthcoming work.

Such foreknowledge on Carroll's part is of course a matter of speculation. But in the penultimate chapter of Sylvie and Bruno he had in fact already included much that he had derived from Tennyson's vast range of romantic materials. For example, his avatar Dr. Arthur Forester, when apparently rejected as a possible suitor for the hand of Lady Muriel, quotes these stout-hearted lines from Tennyson's "Guinevere": "This life of mine / I guard, as God's high gift, from scathe and wrong,/ Not greatly care to lose!" The ever present narrator-avatar of Carroll then adds, "your name-sake bore as heavy a blow, and lived through it." Carroll himself, at Eastbourne where the character of Arthur Forester was largely conceived and developed, had also suffered a more recent disappointment in love - or at least in affection - in connection with his adolescent child-friend Agnes Hull and her sisters.

Lewis Carroll's Publication of 1893: Tennysonian Themes & Quotations

1893. Wednesday 19 July [At Eastbourne]. "Have now unpacked and arranged things, and hope to get to work tomorrow at Sylvie and Bruno Concluded. On the Friday he again made the long walk - one is tempted to say "pilgrimage" - for the often impossibly distant and weather-hidden view of the Isle of Wight, seen from the high promontory of Beachy Head. On the Saturday, his creativity apparently revived, he added to his journal page: "Wrote some additions to Sylvie and Bruno Concluded…" (Diaries 9: 83).

In what would be his final major work of children's fiction, published in the year following Tennyson's death, the curiously complex double tale of Sylvie and Bruno Concluded presents numerous instances of Carroll's's continuing respect and admiration for the works of the departed Poet Laureate. Already in his Preface, dated "Christmas 1893," he quite unexpectedly draws upon a anecdote of Tennyson's at one of their meals the two authors took together: "I heard [it] made by the great Poet Laureate, whose loss the whole reading-world has so lately had to deplore." Carroll's sense of sadness and depletion, if not quite the pain and sackcloth of repentance, are almost tangible here. In the opening chapter of the final version of Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, the narrator talks of "feeling my life a little more wearisome than usual," and longing to hear "sweet words of human speech." A similar phrase and sentiment had formed part of Tennyson's In Memoriam (LXXXIV: 83-4), which had been promptly and meticulously indexed by Carroll and his studious sisters in 1862 (see Part II of this chronology).

1893. Wednesday 27 December. Carroll went up "To town" where he spent "some hours" at his publisher Macmillan's, "writing in copies" of the new fairy book. Unlike the earlier occasion of December 1889, with Part One of the lengthy story, lists of recipients of these complimentary copies show that the author was now careful to considerately include Lady Tennyson, whose copy is currently archived with the Tennyson Research Centre, City Library, Lincoln U.K. (Diaries 9: 117 & n202).

In the 1893 fairy story's second chapter the reader becomes entwined in Carroll's clever "tangled skein" of conflicting motives and doubts, almost certainly culled and modified from Tennyson's poem "The Lady of Shalott" in the early collected Poems of 1832: "She left the web, she left the loom. She made three paces through the room…Out flew the web and floated wide…" Another pertinent Victorian greatly admired by Lewis Carroll was artist Holman Hunt, who made several and ever-improving depictions c.1850 to c.1890s of this same entrancing Arthurian-Tennysonian scene. The trifecta of Tennyson-Hunt-Carroll, though by 1893 largely marginalised, had done much to maintain a Late English Romanticism in the face of such new contenders as Aestheticism, Late Decorative Pre-Raphaelitism and the more "muscular" if less-Christianised Realism.

The closing chapters of Sylvie and Bruno Concluded offer a determined finale, devoutly pious and faithful both to Carroll's Christianity and to his now largely hidden favourite from the four Poet Laureates who graced his own lifetime [see 1896]. In a climactic twist of plot the author appears to kill off his own avatar-hero, the impeccable Dr. Arthur Forester, only to bring him back again in a soundly rational manner with no default to supernaturalism. The atmosphere, rather, is ably enriched by a late resort once more to the endearing romanticism of Alfred Tennyson. In an earlier short poem presented in his Maud and Other Poems, Tennyson had extended a heartfelt invitation to his respected guest, the Rev. F.D. Maurice that he might

Come, when no graver cares employ,

.....to the Isle of Wight;

Come, Maurice, come: the lawn as yet
Is hoar with rime, or spongy-wet…

Or later, pay one visit here,

For those are few we hold as dear;
      Nor pay but one, but come for many,
Many and many a happy year."

"To The Rev. F. D. Maurice," verse 12, January 1854.

In Lewis Carroll's late 1893 borrowings he has Lady Muriel extend the invitation to himself in the form of his Narrator-avatar: "Well, I will leave you here," she said…"Good night, dear friend! Let us see you soon - and often!" she added, with an affectionate warmth which went to my very heart. "For those are few we hold as dear!" "Good night!" I answered. "Tennyson said that of a worthier friend than me." "Tennyson didn't know what he was talking about!" she saucily rejoined, with a touch of her old childish gaiety, and we parted" (Ch. XVIII).

Lady Muriel clings to Arthur in Harry Furniss's illustration
for Sylvie and Bruno Concluded.

Here finally we encounter, preserved lastingly in print, Lewis Carroll's fruitfully honest self-analysis, probably largely concluded during the Eastbourne summer months of 1890-1892, and carefully displaced onto his nascent fictional characters, using his own words together with carefully chosen borrowings from the evidently still revered older Tennyson. Carroll, we conclude, had wished all along to be treated by the Poet Laureate as just such a god-son as Tennyson was to Maurice, which would have gone "to his very heart" for many a happy year. A minor ambivalent thrust criticising Tennyson is still permitted, though this Carroll skilfully displaces and addresses through the mouth of Lady Muriel, with further deflection and softening via terms such as "saucily" and "childish gaiety." Carroll's earlier and difficult to maintain acceptance had finally attained a more beneficial state of inner peace, both with himself and with his internalised Tennyson. The Laureate's own final offering to the "reading world," with its compelling analogy of the worldly sailor crossing his final bar, was also given a role in the fairytale ending: sailors, fishermen and the local harbour are all in evidence amidst a pandemic of death, whilst the prematurely erected tombstone to the missing Arthur Forester bears the line "whose mortal remains lie buried by the sea." So it was also with Tennyson.

1894. Mrs Weld died, unrecorded in Lewis Carroll's journal. However, on Tuesday 6 November at 9 a.m. Carroll went to give a trial lesson in his specialist Mathematical Symbolic Logic "to a new class - four Misses Edwards, friends of Miss Agnes Weld, who live at 42, Banbury Road [Oxford]" (Diaries 9: 181-2). The event was repeated the following Tuesday. At Eastbourne this summer a change becomes apparent in Carroll's preferences. No further mention is made of Beachy Head, and the new long walk was now in a new direction. On Wednesday 10 October Carroll wrote "Took my Hastings walk again…5 hours 23 minutes to get to Mr. Allen's house in St. Leonards" (Diaries 9:175).

1895. 23 January. "…have spent most of my time on Logic..". During most of February, confined with influenza, his reading consisted of Oliver Wendell Holmes's Guardian Angel, Dinah Mulock Craik's A Life for a Life and similar authors and works (Diaries 9: 190). By Tuesday 2 April he was sending "MS to Clay for "Contents" to Symbolic Logic Part I" (Diaries 191).

1895 Sunday 5 May. After church Carroll "walked with Agnes Weld to Norham Road…" On Tuesday 14 May Agnes Weld "brought an American lady to see me…" The husband was "going through the Oxford course", and their "little girl Marie Louise," together with Agnes, "staid for tea, pictures, etc." (196). The now independent Agnes Weld, bereft of both her mother and her famous Poet Laureate uncle, was seemingly set upon making herself socially useful to Carroll. Her manner in this, however, was sadly not to the famous child author's liking, and would come to grief just a very few years later.

1896. Alfred Austin, 1835-1913, after a controversial delay, became the new Poet Laureate. He was the fourth such in Lewis Carroll's lifetime, the others being Robert Southey from 1813-1843; Wordsworth from 1843-1850, and Tennyson, from 1850-1892. In June 1889 Carroll had met Austin as a house guest at the Hatfield House home of Lord Salisbury, noting the fellow guest as "author of The Season etc. etc." (Diaries 8: 467). Despite this Carroll appears to have made no subsequent references to the new Laureate. When he wrote to his own niece, Edith Dodgson, on August 30, Carroll recommended that the young woman obtain "the Golden Treasury …of selections from Wordsworth." The poems, he told her, "are like good music - more enjoyable at each repetition" (Diaries 9: 274n437).

1897. Tuesday 4 May. Whilst out walking in Oxford with one of his nieces - all four of his brother Wilfred's daughters were now studying there - Carroll "met Miss Agnes Weld, with some foreign lady, to whom she introduced me - a thing I have again and again begged her not to do…I hate being thus made a "lion"…". For Lewis Carroll it was the last straw. His journal entry adds that he had "written to tell her that in future, when I meet her with strangers, I shall not recognise her" (Diaries 9: 306-7). Sadly, the little girl in his coyly captivating pioneer photograph of Little Red Riding Hood, then disappears as a grown woman from Lewis Carroll's journal pages.

1897. Tuesday 3 August to Tuesday 10 August. In what would prove to be his last summer at Eastbourne, and crafted around his own "lucky Tuesdays" with the necessary "Lovely weather" as he noted, Carroll apparently planned, or simply took advantage of circumstance, to return to his uniquely personal "pilgrimage" to the disguised sanctuary of his abiding concern for all things Tennysonian. On four of the eight inclusive days available from one Tuesday to the next, he returned alone to Beachy Head. No further details or associations appear on his journal page, and the suggested Tennyson connection is therefore inevitably hypothetical: "Aug: 3 (Tu)….Polegate by railway…thence along the Downs to Beachy Head… Aug: 7 (Sat)….along Downs to Beachy Head… Aug: 9 (M). Polegate by rail…thence to Beachy Head. Aug: 10 (Tu). Walked to Polegate, and thence to highest point beyond Beachy Head" (Diaries 9: 330). The whole week, in glorious golden summer, has the appearance of a long farewell to a great and now truly distant Victorian.

Carroll's grave at The Mount Cemetery, Guildford.

1898. 14 January. At Guildford with his sisters, in severely cold weather, Lewis Carroll died of pulmonary complications. He had penned a short Preface, dated January 1898, to his final living work - a part-return to his and Tennyson's abiding Romanticism, with his late collected poems of 1898. Among such early works as "The Path of Roses" celebrating Florence Nightingale, and "Faces in The Fire" celebrating homely romantics, published by Charles Dickens in the No. 42 February 1860 edition of All The Year Round, Carroll included twelve newer pieces - some cloyingly ultra-romantic, as Tennyson would surely have advised him - from his later children's fairy story (Carroll, 1889 & 1893). There also we find Carroll's final borrowings from Tennyson, with a continued preference for the departed Laureate's atmospheric effects: "… aloft against the sky, whose deepening blue was already spangled with stars… (1893, Ch. XXV). Tennyson had used "spangle" in his early "The Sea-Fairies" in Poems, Chiefly Lyrical of 1830, and had later generously drawn the young Carroll's attention to the uses of moonlight and related effects in literary works (see Part Two, entry for 1859). To the end of his days the younger author had remained captivated by the literary precedents introduced to him by his mentor, working them here and there into the fabric of his own gifted literary creations.

Links to related material


Carroll, Lewis. Lewis Carroll's Diaries. The Private Journal of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Ed. Edward Wakeling. Vols. 1, 4 & 8. England: Lewis Carroll Society, 1993, 1997 & 2004.

_____. Sylvie and Bruno. London & New York: Macmillan, 1889.

Sylvie and Bruno Concluded. London & New York: Macmillan, 1893.

_____. Three Sunsets and Other Poems. London & New York, Macmillan. 1898.

Dyer, Ray. Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno With Sylvie and Bruno Concluded. Scholar's Annotated Edition. Leicester: Troubador Books, 2015.

_____. Lady Muriel. Lewis Carroll's Hidden Romance. Scholar's Annotated Edition. Leicester: Troubador Books, 2016.

Gwynn, Stephen. Tennyson: A Critical Study. London: Blackie & Son, 1899.

Stern, Jeffery. Lewis Carroll's Library. Carroll Studies No. 5. Lewis Carroll Society of North America, 1981. (The Lots at auction in 1898, and which contained Tennyson's works, in many editions, included: Lots 351, 352, 424 and others).

Tennyson, Hallam. Tennyson: A Memoir. 2 vols. London & New York: Macmillan, 1897.

Created 12 October 2022