Emily, Lady Tennyson

Joanna Richardson portrays the marriage of Alfred Tennyson and Emily Sellwood, which set the world a ‘radiant example of domestic happiness’.

One day in May 1836, Charles Tennyson, the son of a Lincolnshire clergyman, was married to Louisa Sellwood, the daughter of a solicitor. It might have been just a local occasion; but it deserves to be remembered. For the best man was the bridegroom’s brother, Alfred Tennyson - and it was at the wedding that he fell in love with Emily Sellwood, who was the bridesmaid and sister of the bride.

Emily entered his life with wonderful precision. It was three years since the sudden death of Arthur Hallam, who had been Tennyson’s great friend in Cambridge days. Tennyson had felt an intense devotion for this handsome, gifted young man of twenty-two - indeed, his devotion had been so strong that perhaps he had been incapable of falling in love with a woman. But now the first shock of the tragedy was over, and Tennyson had begun to turn to women for consolation.

Once he had been a formal poet, courtly and elegant; now grief and suffering had changed him. In a sonnet published years later, and addressed to Emily, he recalled his brother’s wedding. He remembered the bridal couple at the altar, and how

Love lighted down between them full of glee,

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