The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate
The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate
London: Macmillan and Co.. 1884.

Four volumes (of eight). 8vo. 171x115mm. pp. Vol. 1: [4], vi, 313, [1]; Vol. 2: viii, 317, [1]; Vol. 3: vi, 396; Vol. 4. vi, 230. Frontispiece portrait of Tennyson in volume one. Full vellum, the corners of the covers are decorated with two crossed "L"s surmounted by a crown in gilt the monogram of Princess Louise Augusta of Schleswig-Holstein. (She was also known as Princess Marie Louise). The spine is decorated with two flowers and lettered in gilt. All edges gilt. White silk doublures with double fillet gilt borders of a wavy line inside a straight line with a flower device in the corner and turn-ins lavishly decorated in gilt. Front pastedown has the bookplate of Princess Louise Augusta.

The recto of one of the preliminary pages of volume one has a long inscription by Tennyson recording the gift of these volumes of poems, "together with a diamond crescent" to "her Highness Princess Louise Augusta of Schleswig-Holstein by Matrons, Sister and Nurses of Great Britain and Ireland on the occasion of her marriage". The inscription records the appreciation of the nurses for the interest shown by Princess Louise Augusta's mother, Princess Christian (Helena) in their work.

Below this inscription is a four line verse by Tennyson addressed to the bride:
Take, Lady, what your Royal nurses give,
This full God-Bless-you with this book of song,
And may the life which, heart-in-heart, you live
With him you love be cloudless and be long!

July -1891

The marriage in question was to Prince Aribert of Anhalt. It was neither cloudless nor long ending in 1900 amid rumours of the Prince's relationship with a male servant. It transpired that the marriage was never consummated. The poor Princess then devoted herself to Royal and charitable duties and she commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens to design Queen Mary's Dolls' House. She died in 1956.

The poem dedicated to the Princess is printed in Hallam Tennyson's memoir of his father which also records the gift to her of this copy of his works. Hallam also notes how his father would go for walks with Louisa Augusta where they would engage in long conversations on numerous subjects including the writing of poetry about which, Hallam mentions, his father would say: "A crooked share, Madam, may make a straight furrow". Tennyson and the Princess were obviously good friends and is striking that this book should been so noteworthy to have been mentioned in such detail by Hallam. It is certainly a beautiful object and its Royal provenance and original composition by Tennyson provide a particular resonance. Tennyson was, of course, the Poet Laureate. His job was to provide poetry for Royal and State occasions such as marriages like this one. This verse is therefore a rare example of seeing the Poet Laureate at work and eavesdropping on what was clearly a close friendship between the poet and one of his Royal Patrons. Tennyson died in October 1892 and so was spared the sadness of witnessing the collapse of the miserable marriage which he so touchingly and enthusiastically endorsed with this poem to the Princess.