Yesterday I spent a pleasant afternoon leafing through some of Tennysonӳ letters published by Harvard in 1987. I was particularly taken with a letter he wrote to his wife, Emily. It was post-marked 14 June 1859. She was at home in Farringford while he was on the UK mainland for business. The letter is a response to her anniversary gift to him, a Syringa blossom:
Thou thinkest so much of the day that I must begin to think of it tooشhanks for the Syringa (I donӴ know how to spell it) which I suppose stands for orange blossom though why orange blossom should symbol marriage I donӴ know.
After commenting on her gift he goes on to discuss his travels and his reluctance to visit public exhibitions. His letter ends:
Thine, dearest, marriage days and all with no crosses but many xxxxxxx
This anniversary would have been their ninth. The Tennysons were married in June 1850 after a long and sometimes painful courtship. They were first engaged in 1837, but Tennyson had to break off the engagement in 1840 because he feared he would never be able to afford to marry. But his finances improved over the 1840s and further improved when he was appointed Poet Laureate in November 1850.
The intimate tone is typical of their letters to one another. As is his desire to make her happy. He sees celebrating the anniversary as important for her sake. His mildly humorous musings on what orange blossoms and Syringa have to do with marriage are also typical of the way he allowed himself to wonder about things on paper just as he might have in conversation with her.
Tennysonӳ musings on orange blossoms set me to wondering the same thing. Why are they associated with marriage? Unlike Tennyson, I have recourse to search engines. Apparently, orange blossoms represent both purity and fruitfulness because the orange tree blooms and bears fruit at the same time. If you have any thoughts about why үrange blossom should symbol marriageҠor about the TennysonsҠrelationship, IӤ love to read them.
I looked through the volumes of letters to find other anniversary letters between the Tennysons but didnӴ find any. I suppose this could mean they were lost, but I would much rather think it means they were together for all the others.
Dr Jennifer Jones