Moxon's Illustrated Tennyson

[Click on image to enlarge] In 1857, the publisher Edward Moxon put together an illustrated collection of Tennyson's poetry for which a number of the Pre-Raphaelite artists drew illustrations. William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti created the two illustrations below for The Lady of Shalott (NAEL 8, 2.1114).

Hunt's engraving illustrates the following lines:

Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
      The Lady of Shalott.

Hunt shows the Lady imprisoned by the tapestry she has been weaving and entangled in its threads. Lancelot, whose riding by has led her to look directly at the world outside and bring the curse upon herself, is pictured in the broken mirror behind her. Tennyson objected to this feature of Hunt's illustration when it was published because his lines do not have the Lady entangled in the way Hunt pictures. Instead, the lines before the ones Hunt illustrates read, "She left the web, she left the loom."

[Click on image to enlarge] Hunt later made a large oil painting from his design entitled The Lady of Shalott.

Rossetti chose to illustrate the last lines of the poem, when Lancelot looks at the Lady of Shalott on the boat on which she has floated to Camelot:

But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
      The Lady of Shalott."

It is interesting to compare Rossetti's illustration of The Lady of Shalott with his illustration of Tennyson's Morte d'Arthur. (The 1842 poem is the basis of the last of the Idylls of the King, The Passing of Arthur [NAEL 8, 2.1201].) Both illustrations picture onlookers gazing at a dead figure in a boat, but the genders are reversed. In The Lady of Shalott, Lancelot gazes at the Lady; in the Morte d'Arthur, the three queens watch over the dying Arthur. Both engravings show the flat, patterned, medieval style of Rossetti's early work.

[Click on image to enlarge] [Click on image to enlarge]


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