Alexandra Hasluck Books

Audrey Tennyson's Vice-Regal Days

And edited version of the letters of a former Govenor General's wife with foreword by Alexandra Hasluck published by the National Library in 1978.
by Alexandra Hasluck

Publication Details:
Nation Library of Australia, 1978
Hardback 333 pp
ISBN: 0 642 99115 4

Book cover notes:
"The Australian letters of Audrey Lady Tennyson to her mother Zacyntha Boyle, 1899-1903.

'There goes the nicest woman we have ever had in Melbourne!' The subject of this overheard tribute was Audrey Lady Tennyson, leaving Australia at the end of 1903 after five years of vice-regal life as wife of a Governor of South Australia, Hallam Lord Tennyson, who in 1902 had become acting Governor-General. That the Tennysons were well liked is evident from contemporary reports. The reasons why become clear to us now form a series of Audrey Tennyson's letters to her mother in London, which vividly recall what Australia was like at the turn of the century, as seen from a privileged position by a lively, sympathetic, not uncritical observer.

Audrey wrote 262 letters to her mother from Australia: intimate, spontaneous, full of description and even of reported dialogue. They are a headlong mixture of public and private concerns. The patriotic fervours of the Boer War, the events of Federation, the death of beloved Queen Victoria and the visit of the staff-stealing Duke and Duchess of York are mingle with crisis of household, the writer's determination to build a maternity home in Adelaide despite the hostility of the local doctors, her anxiety over an affair between her son's tutor and their French governess.

The milieu is that of Government House, but the letters have a wide range of travel and description, from North Queensland to southern Tasmania, with glimpses in passing of the political and artistic notabilities of the day - Deakin, Forrest, Nellie Melba, Tom Roberts, and others. Underlying the letters is the theme of conflict between love and duty, for Audrey Tennyson was torn between her interests of her husband's career in Australia and the plaintive demands of her ageing mother, constantly alluded to in the replies of this loving daughter, and the family should give it all up and return to England.

Audrey Tennyson's Vice-Regal Days has been edited by Alexandra Hasluck from the extensive collection of Tennyson papers in the National Library of Australia. The book is fortunate in its editor, for Lady Hasluck, besides a skilled historian, has brought to the task the experience and insights of one herself the wife of a former Governor-General of Australia.

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