A First Sight of Tennyson
It was the early summer of 1871, and I was palely baking, like a crumpet, in a singularly horrible underground cage, made of steel bars, called the Den. This was a place such as no responsible being is allowed to live in nowadays, where the transcribers on the British Museum staff were immured in a half-light… I was dolefully engaged here, being then one of the humblest of mankind, a Junior Assistant in the Printed Books Department of the British Museum, on some squalid task, in what was afterwards described by a witness as an atmosphere ‘scented with rotten morocco, and an indescribable odour familiar in foreign barracks’, when a Senior Assistant, one of the rare just spirits in that academical Dotheboys Hall, W. R. S. Ralston,1 came dashing down the flights of curling steel staircase, to the danger of his six feet six of height, and of the beard that waved down to his waist. Over me he bent, and in a whisper (we were forbidden to speak out loud in the Den) he said, ‘Come up stairs at once and be presented to Mr Tennyson!’
KeywordsBritish Museum Ancient World Person Living Print Book Roman Emperor
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- 1.W. R. Shedden-Ralston (1828–89), Slavonic scholar, worked at the British Museum (1853–75).Google Scholar