Alfred Lord Tennyson
Gilbert based his book for Princess Ida on one of his earlier plays, The Princess. This, in turn was based on the poem of the same name by Alfred Lord Tennyson. During the discussion of Princess Ida in the SavoyNet's opera of the week series, it became clear that many G & S fans would welcome the opportunity to compare Gilbert's book with the original. However, as complete copies of Tennyson's poem are difficult to come by, Stephen B. Sullivan has (with great patience and consumate accuracy) scanned a copy and placed it on the G & S archive page. The bulk of the proof reading was bravely undertaken by Harriet Meyer who also provided invaluable insight and comment on the developing on-line version of this little corner of Tennyson's output which, were it not for Gilbert, might have remained totally lost to the late 20th century inhabitants of cyberspace.
We decided to use the text from the 1881 edition of the complete works published in London. It quickly became obvious that, in order for this on-line version of the poem to fulfill all the requirements which we had set for it, substantial annotation would be necessary. In particular, this would need to "translate" much of the arcane language of the poem and explain some of the conventions of 19th century Romantic Poetry. We are in the process of compiling a commentary, using frames, and believe that this will be the first critical version of The Princess to appear on the World Wide Web. (Look for the annotation by the end of the year - Steve)
Alfred Lord Tennyson succeeded Wordsworth as Poet Laureate in 1850, three years after he composed The Princess. He was a prolific and popular poet but is best known for his great Idylls of the King which dealt with the entire Arthurian legend and were composed between 1842 and 1885.
Other well known poems are The Brook, The Lady of Shallott and In Memoriam. In The Princess, whose blank verse form Gilbert retained, Tennyson took the opportunity to make a social comment but, nonetheless, treated the subject of women's education in a serio-comic fashion which some find trying but which is possibly what attracted Gilbert to the piece. Gilbert himself described Princess Ida as a "respectful perversion" of Tennyson's poem.
Updated 24 November 1997