This novel is based on real events on the Isle of Wight, in the summer of 1864. Tennyson is the comic centre of the book - he is very near-sighted yet he enjoys walking on cliffs. Comic mix-up ensues from misdirected love - Lewis Carroll loves Ellen Terry but Ellen loves Tennyson.
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Alice in Wonderland on the Isle of Wight
When I first started work on Tennyson's Gift, I wondered whether it was possible -- or indeed proper -- to write a comic novel about such luminaries as Tennyson and Julia Margaret Cameron, GF Watts and Ellen Terry. But once I had read a few books about these people, it became obvious that you couldn't really write about them in any other way. They were bonkers, these people. Their dedication to Art and Beauty drove them in mad, obsessive directions. And setting them in the world of Lewis Carroll gave me the final key to the story: that the youthful and energetic Ellen Terry, coming to the Isle of Wight and finding only conceited grown-ups, was like Alice meeting the Wonderland creatures who are equally rude and didactic, but ultimately "nothing but a pack of cards". The fact that Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) could be in the story, and had in fact just written Alice's Adventures in the summer of 1864, gave me the confidence to go ahead with it all. He brings the manuscript with him, and goes all peculiar when he keeps seeing bits of it unconsciously acted out. Tennyson's Gift is a special book to me; I wrote it on the island over two summers, from a window overlooking Freshwater Bay, and I have very romantic associations with the place, from the cliffs to the bay, and all the houses in between. It's a farce in structure -- about photography, rolls of wallpaper, dead painters and phrenological heads -- but it's about unrequited love and landscape underneath, with lots of Shakespearean love-and-loss stuff in Ellen Terry, and lots of Tennysonian love-and-loss stuff in -- well, Tennyson.
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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, 1997. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0140246711