Idylls No More at Freshwater?
Ann Hills uncovers a shrine to Victorian photography under threat.
The Isle of Wight is currently celebrating the Tennyson Centenary Festival (which continues until August 16th). Lord Tennyson (1809-92) spent nearly forty years on the Isle of Wight, but although this festival is the highlight of the island's cultural year, it masks an ironic disregard for the preservation of another historical legacy of the mid-Victorian years. Time seems to be running out for the home in Freshwater of Tennyson's great friend the photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79).
Mrs Cameron was given her first camera by her daughter in 1863 at the age of forty-eight. The gift was to change her life. 'I handled my lens with a tender ardour, and it has become to me as a living thing...' she was later to write. Some of her work can be seen, alongside Tennyson memorabilia, as part of the festival at the Quay Arts Centre, Newport, and it is her portrait of Tennyson which decorates the festival literature and which peers from the 33p stamp in a recent Post Office series.