Emily Tennyson, letter to Edward Lear, 11 January 1856


Dear Mr. Lear, 

                    You know I have generally a hundred letters to write in ten minutes and a foreign sheet presenting itself seems to say here are a thousand this ten minutes. You know you have promised to write to me and you know you have not fulfilled your promise. Naughty Mr. Lear – and you know I promised to write to you and you know I have not fulfilled my promise. Naughty Mrs. A.T. Well I will forgive if you will forgive me and if you will not forgive me too.

          I am afraid you are not well and this is why you have not written, and I am afraid Frank having no house of his own you see him but seldom & this is why you have not written, and altogether I am afraid this new year has not dawned upon you as happily as one could wish, & this is why you have not written and I can do nothing but wish I could make it otherwise and help you to keep as cheerful a heart as you can and look to the good that is to come of all that seems so evil.

           But I must not stay chattering what you know because you want to hear a little you don’t know [,] still first I must tell you how grateful we are for those beautiful letters though you do, I hope[,] know this. The pasting & ironing have been by no means so successful as they ought to have been but then I hope you will consider the remarkable fact of the Poet Laureate being seen ironing by nearly the whole household as something of a compensation. For what weighty lessons ought not housemaids & cooks to learn therefrom so that if the irons proved too cold & the paste somewhat unmanageable I hope as a well-wisher to all housemaids & cooks a man of universal humanity as I take you to be you will not be too critical when you see the results. Hallam made no invidious remarks, such as “Gandy or Eliza would have done this better” but with rapturous delight pronounced all “bootful” and particularly insisted that it was “Mr. Lear’s hat”. He is beginning to give us original ideas on most subjects now. The other day when Uncle Weld had made him his first kite and was flying it for him he wanted to know “whether Hallam would go to the sky with a string”. If you tell him a thing is not there he always insists upon seeing “the not” – but this is too mama-ish – Lionel imitates him in everything as you may suppose.