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TENNYSON, Lord Alfred (1809-1892). The Charge of the Light Brigade. [London]: 8 August 1855.

Small 4to (254 x 203 mm), 4 pp. on bifolium, the last blank. Mounted on stub, old folds with discreet repairs; bound in full crimson morocco gilt stamped–signed by Sangorski and Sutcliffe with calligraphic half-title on supplied blank.

FIRST SEPARATE EDITION, LIMITED ISSUE, one of 1000 copies PRINTED AT TENNYSON’S REQUEST SPECIFICALLY FOR SOLDIERS SERVING AT THE SIEGE OF SEVASTOPOL. ASSOCIATION COPY bearing the signature of Captain John Walrond Clarke of the 10th Royal Hussars above the title, whose regiment was involved in numerous campaigns throughout the Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War. On 21 September 1855 Clarke led his troops in a charge against an opposing army of Cossacks at Seit Ali, forcing them into a retreat. The 10th Royal Hussars chased them for two miles before finding themselves facing a larger force at the end of a gorge, who immediately opened fire. Clarke’s regiment successfully cut through the opposing force, an act which made Clarke a regimental hero.

On 25 October 1854 during the Battle of Balaclava, a miscommunication in orders resulted in the British Light Brigade led by Lord Cardigan charging against a heavily-armed Russian artillery battery, an attack which led to an immediate British retreat and very high casualties. Despite the defeat the Light Brigade was hailed at home for their bravery in attacking, in particular by Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who wrote “The Charge of the Light Brigade” in a matter of minutes based on a recollection of accounts published in the London Times. The poem was met with great acclaim by soldiers on the frontlines, in particular for the line “Someone had blunder’d,” emphasizing the failure of commanding officers to accurately assess the situation prior to ordering the charge. Due to criticism that this was an unpatriotic sentiment to express (especially by the Poet Laureate) during time of war, Tennyson removed this line and another stanza deemed controversial when he published “The Charge of the Light Brigade” in Maud, and Other Poems in 1855, reducing the poem from 55 to 46 lines. Upon hearing that the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel intended to distribute the version printed in Maud to soldiers on the front lines, Tennyson at the suggestion of Jane, Lady Franklin wrote to biographer and literary critic John Forster that “I wish to send out about 1,000 [copies of the poem], and I don’t at all want the S.P.G. or anyone else to send out the version last printed; it would, I believe, quite disappoint the soldiers.” These copies were distributed to soldiers still fighting on the front lines at Sevastopol with a personal message of support from Tennyson added at the end. Institutional copies are now held at the Widener Library at Harvard, the J.P. Morgan Library, and the British Library. Shepherd, pg. 79 (1896), Wise 82; Not in Ashley.

 TENNYSON, Lord Alfred (1809-1892). The Charge of the Light ...
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