HALLAM, Arthur Henry (1811-1833). Autograph letter signed to Emily Tennyson, Wakefield, 1 October 1831, 3 pages, 8vo, integral address panel (a few ink blots, slightly browned, stitch holes, professional repairs at edge on verso of 2nd leaf). Provenance: purchased from the Gibbel sale, 23 January 1941, lot 288 $20.
A love letter to Emily, the sister of Alfred Tennyson whose poem, In Memoriam, made Hallam's name famous.
'I do not hear from you, and, as usual, I am foolish enough to be uneasy ... I left Alfred in such precarious health that I cannot altogether repress my fears about him: above all things, Emily, do not hesitate to let me know if either he or you should become really ill ... My time here has been tolerably dull ... Fancy me lying on a sofa, in a large drawing room ... while my eyes follow the dim shadows that cross a tall mirror at the further extremity of the room, and imagination busily shapes the phantoms of sight, until I might almost believe I saw your form within that distant glass, as Surr[e]y saw his lovely Geraldine'.
Hallam gives a lively account of his surroundings, in country which is 'generally pretty, seldom rising into positive beauty' and blackened by the 'horrid smoke and steam from manufacturing towns'. His hostess, Mrs [Mary] Gaskell is 'a clever woman' who plays the harp; his Etonian friend [James Milnes] Gaskell has political ambitions, and his 'amiability, frankness, and courtesy make his society always agreable to me'. He recalls a passing attachment to an English lady in Italy [Anna Wintour] to whom Gaskell had been equally attached: 'Are you jealous now I have told you this? You need not fear; I could see that face again, that beautiful face, without one disloyal thought to my Emily: nay, if you have anything of a woman's vanity you should rejoice rather that the captive whom you hold for ever "In willing chains & sweet captivity" was no novice when you took him'. The letter ends with an allusion to the Iliad (in Pope's translation), and 'Now most sweet Achilles, I must leave writing ... Cara, carissima, adio. Ever most affect[iona]tely your own Arthur Hallam'.
Arthur Hallam, already a friend of Alfred Tennyson, met Emily late in 1829, and was captivated by her beauty and idealism. His proposal of marriage was accepted, but his father's agreement was conditional on him and Emily having no communication before Arthur's twenty-first birthday in 1832, a ban to which Emily's father also subscribed, shortly before his death, while Mrs Tennyson took a more lenient view. The present letter is addressed to Emily at Cheltenham and reveals that Hallam visited the Tennysons there, presumably on the slender excuse that the ban did not apply to Emily's family. On his majority, the engagement was announced, but was impeded by the stubborn refusal of Emily's grandfather, George Tennyson (now responsible for the Tennyson children's welfare) to alter his financial provisions in her favour. Tragedy intervened ten months later, when Arthur Hallam died suddenly while visiting Vienna with his father. 'The effect on Alfred and Emily Tennyson was crushing. In four short years Arthur had become their sheet anchor' (Sir C. Tennyson. The Tennysons, 1974, p.86). He was later to be immortalised by Alfred Tennyson's tribute, while Emily, to her family's apparent disapproval, married Lieutenant Richard Jesse in 1842.