The Tennysons in Literary Adelaide

Abstract

For many in Adelaide, the appointment in 1899 of Hallam Tennyson as governor of South Australia was a perfect ending for the nineteenth century. The city had long regarded its interest in literature as an important part of its identity, and, although Hallam might officially have been the representative of the British crown, he was received equally, or even more, as the heir of one of the great literary figures of the age. A poem published on the day of his arrival began, ‘Welcome, son of thy great father’. Similarly, a piece in the South Australian Register was unashamedly more interested in the new governor’s literary ancestry than in any qualities that he might, himself, possess: ‘Lord Tennyson, all hail you! South Australia gives you hearty greetings. As the son of the late illustrious Alfred Tennyson—a name of which the whole Empire is proud—and as a scholar and a gentleman, colonists welcome you. This essay traces the literary migration of one Tennyson and the literal migration of the other. It comes out of a larger study of literature in Adelaide, research that examines, among other things, Adelaide’s sense of itself as a city in which literature is highly valued. The reception of Alfred Tennyson during the second half of the nineteenth century is evidence of strong interest in Victorian literature; the welcome given to Hallam shows just how much Adelaide enjoyed seeing itself as a literary city.

For many in Adelaide, the appointment in 1899 of Hallam Tennyson as governor of South Australia was a perfect ending for the nineteenth century. The city had long regarded its interest in literature as an important part of its identity, and, although Hallam might officially have been the representative of the British crown, he was received equally, or even more, as the heir of one of the great literary figures of the age. A poem published on the day of his arrival began, ‘Welcome son of thy great father’.1 Similarly, a piece in the South Australian Register was unashamedly more interested in the new governor’s literary ancestry than in any qualities that he might himself, possess: ‘Lord Tennyson, all hail you! South Australia gives you hearty greetings. As the son of the late illustrious Alfred Tennyson—a name of which the whole Empire is proud—and as a scholar and a gentleman,…

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Published 31 October 2015 in Volume 30 No. 3. Subjects: Victorian Literature.

Cite as: Butterss, Philip. ‘The Tennysons in Literary Adelaide.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 30, no. 3, 2015. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.04bbf3e8fa.