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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Crabbe, Fitzgerald & Tennyson Day

Crabbe, Fitzgerald & Tennyson Day

with Graham Fawcett

Saturday 28th April 2007

Opinions differ about what really happened, but according to at least one version, it was like finding a priceless painting stowed away in the attic. It’s a story to warm the hearts especially of translators and of people who like browsing in, and even more, in the boxes outside, bookshops.

Quite who it was that found copies of the first edition of Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam in the penny box at Bernard Quaritch’s (the distinguished bookseller who had originally published the book two years earlier at a shilling) is open to question. Fitzgerald’s biographer Robert Bernard Martin credits a young Celtic scholar Whitley Stokes, who apparently bought several copies at a penny each and gave one to his friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Rossetti read the seventy-five stanza translation that evening. According to Swinburne, this next morning he went straight round to the booksellers where he bought several copies (the price had by then been raised to twopence) and gave them to his friends, including Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and George Meredith.

The wheels were turning which would generate an unstoppable momentum: Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyyat was about to become one of the most famous verse translations into English of all time, hailed by John Ruskin who confessed that he had “never . . till this day – read anything so glorious”. It is hard to imagine anyone not wanting to reads on past Fitzgerald’s stirring first stanza:

“Awake ! for Morning in the Bowl of Night

Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:

And Lo ! the Hunter of the East has caught

The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light”.

As the action of Rubaiyyat is set, like Joyce’s Ulysses, over the space of a single day from dawn to dusk, we shall read from it on the hour through our day. Crabbe, Fitzgerald and Tennyson Day is an exploration of the life of Edward Fitzgerald with specially arranged visits to the houses where he was born and lived out his last years (including tea in his garden) and a walk through the fields to his last resting-place in the beautiful Boulge Churchyard, and a recreation of the period of the young George Crabbe’s apprenticeship and early writing life in Woodbridge, later to be commemorated in his outstanding poem in 24 letters, The Borough, and of the moment in the life of Fitzgerald’s great friend Tennyson when the author of In Memoriam came to visit him in Woodbridge.

Crabbe, Fitzgerald & Tennyson Day

with Graham Fawcett

Saturday 28th April 2007


1000 Meet at main entrance (pointing uphill) of Shire Hall, Market Hill.

Till 1040 Crabbe, Fitzgerald & Tennyson 1 with GF in Market Hill area.

1045 Enter Shire Hall, where we are the guests of the Woodbridge

Town Council – very comfortable Council Chamber at our disposal.

1045-1145 Crabbe, Fitzgerald & Tennyson 2 with GF.

1145 Leave Shire Hall for the King’s Head (50metres)

1150-1300 Lunch in the King’s Head’s Back Bar (bar reserved for us -

bar menu ranges from £4 to £10).

1300 Taxis (£1 per head) pre-booked by GF to take us from King’s

Head to Fitzgerald House, Bredfield.

1315 Arrive Fitzgerald House, where we will be met by Caroline and

David Cowper.

1315-1400 Crabbe, Fitzgerald & Tennyson 3 with GF.

1400 Set out from Fitzgerald House along footpath across fields (by

special arrangement) and along country lanes to Boulge Churchyard

where Fitzgerald is buried and the adjacent Boulge Hall site where

his single-storey cottage, though since added to, still stands.

(Estimated walking time 45 minutes).

1445-1530 Crabbe, Fitzgerald & Tennyson 4 with GF at Boulge.

1530 Depart Boulge by pre-booked taxis (£1.50 per head) for Little

Grange, Woodbridge.

1545 Arrive Little Grange, Fitzgerald’s last home, where we will be

welcomed by Penelope and Martin Bartlett.

1545-1645 Tea on Fitzgerald’s lawn, weather permitting. Crabbe,

Fitzgerald & Tennyson 5 with GF.

1645 End of Day. Pleasant walk back into centre (10 mins).

To book a place on Crabbe, Fitzgerald and Tennyson Day, visit the Poetry School’s website at www.poetryschool.com or telephone 0845 223 5274 or 020 7405 3997


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