‘Fascinated by Tennyson’s celebrity’: Jen’s postcard from the Isle of Wight

Farringford cockney

Outside of Farringford House, the Isle of Wight

Why I went…

I’ve always been fascinated by Tennyson’s celebrity and the ways in which he negotiated it. Visiting friends in Freshwater has, over the years, provided plenty of opportunities to breathe Tennysonian air, to experience his visual inspirations at Headon Warren, High Down, and Freshwater Bay. I ‘visited’ Farringford House last week, but only as a back-gate snooper – a modern-day cockney – as the house isn’t open to the public.

What I got out of the experience… 

Although I wasn’t, strictly speaking, trespassing, there’s an undeniable frisson in being where one shouldn’t be. The fact that Farringford isn’t curated enables the imagination to engage more freely with the place. The security railings surrounding the property reinforce the sense of withdrawal suggested by the castellation that tops the walls and the dark, ivy-covered windows. Tennyson chose this area for its vistas and sense of rural retreat, but his celebrity followed him to Freshwater; fans of the literary superstar sought him out, lurked in his gardens, and even climbed trees in attempts to catch a glimpse of him. So there’s a poignant flavour to my own snooping; I feel the desire of his readers to be nearer to him, but I also sense his distress at the assault on his privacy.

Farringford House

Farringford House

Creative Commons Licence

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