Tennyson Illustrations and Music


Poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Illustrated by Edward Lear. London and New York: Boussod, Valadon & Co., 1889.

Edward Lear’s Tennyson. With and Introduction and commentary by Ruth Pitman. Manchester-New York, Carcanet, 1988.


Beside the music for two of his own Laughable Lyrics, “The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò” and “The Pelican Chorus,” Lear published two books of arrangements of Alfred Tennyson’s poems. Since he was not a trained musician, Lear engaged Edward Francis Rimbault to notate his performance of the songs:

Poems and Songs by Alfred Tennyson, set to music and inscribed to Mrs Alfred Tennyson by Edward Lear. London: Cramer, Beale & Co., 1853.
Includes four settings: “Edward Gray,” “A Farewell,” “Tears, Idle Tears,” and “Sweet and Low.”

Poems and Songs by Alfred Tennyson, set to music and inscribed to Mrs Alfred Tennyson by Edward Lear. London: Cramer, Beale & Co., 1859.
Reprints the first four settings and adds five new ones: “Home They Brought her Warrior Dead,” “As through the Land at Eve We Went,” “Come Not When I am Dead,” “O Let the Solid Ground not Fail,” and “The Time Draws Near.”

This book is now available for download in facsimile from Houghton Library in an 1860 edition to which three more arrangements were added: “Turn, Fortune, Turn thy Wheel,” “The Song of Love & Death,”  and “Too Late, Too Late.”

Robert Tear’s performance of the first nine numbers was published in a 1984 album entitled Tears, Idle Tears; the cassette version, published by Cabaletta Recording the same year (TCDN 5004) includes nine of Lear’s arrangements as well as a few of Belloc’s Cautionary Tales in Liza Lehman’s arrangements.

3 Responses to Tennyson Illustrations and Music

  1. Kareen King says:

    I am lucky to have discovered your site today while perusing the internet for activity ideas to support Lewis Carroll Day on January 27. I am a Registered Drama Therapist, a singer/songwriter/storyteller, and a lover of learning new things! I work as an Activities Consultant at long-term care facilities and enjoy engaging the hearts and minds of elders with new ideas, forms of creative expression, quotable quotes, etc.

    I was wondering if you can recommend some famous nonsensical folk songs to add to my list for a singalong. So far I have a list including Puff the Magic Dragon
    Banana Boat Song, Turkey in the Straw, Blue Tail Fly, Polly Wolly Doodle, and Blue Tail Fly.

    Also, I’m curious – what drives your passion for this site? What is your “sense” behind the “nonsense?” I am impressed with what you have to offer.

    Thank you. I will include a link to your site on my weblog, http://www.thegoldenexperience.com.

  2. Louise Dumas says:

    Hello….think you might be interested in my D.Phil thesis which carries a chapter on Lear and Music: it’s called One Wild Flower and it’s about Victorian Nonsense Poetry. Music is very, very important. Louise Schweitzer.

    • goetzkluge says:

      Your “One Wild Flower” is a very recommendable book. It gave me guidance on my own Snark hunt and especially helped me to find one of Henry Holiday’s pictorial references. You wrote (p. 223): “But perhaps Holiday’s ruff – and the pose of the Fit Five drawing – was inspired by the Elizabethan drama inherent in Millais’ Boyhood of Raleigh, (1869).” I agree to that and think that in your suggestion, “perhaps” can be replaced by “quite probably” (search the internet for “page_holidays-butcher-and-millais-raleigh”).

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