Do you have Idylls of the King? By Alfred, Lord Tennyson?


My family is blessed to own a small cottage on a postage stamp size island in Northern Wisconsin.

The Island
The Island

As a child, there was no television or telephone and because there were no distractions we did all those kid things: swim, catch frogs, swing, play in the woods… on the sunny days. Rainy days, however, were a different story. On rainy days, after we finished moaning and whining about having no television, we headed to the game drawer and started in on Monopoly marathons and my favorite game “Authors.”

We played ‘Authors’ day and night. We made fun of some of the authors’ portraits and we concocted jingles out of the titles. My favorite jingle was the one we made up for “Song of Hiawatha,” sung to a familiar theme played in all Cowboy and Indian movies of the 40’s.

Over the years, the stack of cards dwindled down to a mere shadow of its former self. Eventually, there were no more than a dozen. When I grew up and started taking my own daughter and nieces to the cottage, I mourned the missing ‘Authors’ cards. But, as fate would have it, while reading a magazine, I happened upon an article announcing a re-issue of the popular children’s card game. I ordered two sets and now I keep one in my dresser drawer and one is always in my purse. We never go to the cottage without them. Everyone asks as soon as we get in the car before we pull out of the driveway, “Do we have ‘Authors?” My girls love ‘Authors’ as much as we did as children.

My personal favorite card from the deck is “Idylls of the King.” As children, we often mispronounced this. My mother would smirk each time she heard one of us ask, “Do you have Iddles (rhymes with skiddles) of the King?” Finally, reluctantly, she decided to correct us, but we went on asking for Iddles, guffawing and snickering each time.

Do you have Iddles of the King (snort)
Do you have Iddles of the King (snort)

Within the past five years, I found an old, beat up copy of  the book “Idylls of the King.” It is navy blue with gold leaf lettering.I bring it with me to the cottage, and whenever someone draws the card or asks for it, I whip out my copy and read a selection. Now we giggle and groan because everyone knows I will read a section out loud.

I am not the only one who thinks Tennyson should be read aloud. Radio 3 in the UK with be presenting “Idylls of the King” on July 12th. Apparently, as Michael Symmons Roberts tells us in this article,

Tennyson’s voice has been ringing in my head these past weeks, as I’ve been working on a new adaptation of his Arthurian sequence Idylls of the King for Radio 3. Not just Tennyson’s voice, but the voices he creates for kings, knights, maidens, fools and churls. This is poetry to be read aloud, and this was a poet with a popular voice. When a short, early version of the Idylls was first published in 1859, more than 10,000 copies were sold within the first fortnight. The more I worked on the poems, the more I thought of him as a radio poet before the age of radio.

I hope they create a podcast. I may decide to download it and the next time we are sitting around the table at my beloved cottage playing authors and someone asks “Do you have Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, I will hit the play button…

Here we are...playing 'Authors'
Here we are...playing 'Authors'

6 thoughts on “Do you have Idylls of the King? By Alfred, Lord Tennyson?

  1. Ohhhhhh! That makes me teary eyed. Where did both our childhood and our girls’ go? Wonderful, poignant memories!

  2. Got an 1880-ish/1890-ish copy of the book, somewhere. I’ll have to dig it out one of these days.

  3. Great story Dorothy Jane. I loved that.

    FWIW my dad’s favorite was Tennyson’ “Crossing The Bar”.

    “Sun set and evening star,
    And one clear call for me!,
    And may there be no moaning of the bar
    When I put out to sea…”

    I recited it in the hospital among the family members as he unconsciously slipped across the bar himself, and it closed the door beautifully on a wonderful life. Thanks for posting this.

    1. Daddy – This is one of my favorite passages as well! I actually read Crossing the Bar because of playing Authors in my childhood… when I became a teenager I was curious about many of the titles and started reading them. I have not read all the books but I have read quite a few. It is a wonderful teaching tool. If I was a teacher, I think I would use it…

  4. I am flying to Wisconsin tomorrow, and recall time we spent at a family cottage on a lake, playing with paper dolls, and playing a card game which sounds like Authors, and probably was.
    This is a good idea for you to suggest reading some of the classics like “Idylls of the King”.
    Terra author of “Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts”

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