Born at the “Vicarage by the quarry,” from whence the late Poet Laureate had led his  bride; and going, each year of one’s life, away from the cedared lawn and the terraced garden, the flowery meadows, and the silver Thames below the chalk cliff, to the sand hills of the Lincoln coast, the levels of the Lincoln marsh, the windmills of the Lincoln wold, and the cornfields in the shining fen, which Tennyson, in his boyhood, had known—It was inevitable that one who had been brought up on so much of his poems as a child could understand, should associate the scene of those annual holidays with thoughts of the Poet. (p. vii)

Each year my father paid a visit to the Poet at Farringford, and one heard talk of Tennyson when he returned.  Each time a volume of poems was given to the world, a presentation copy came to my father’s hands, and we, as children, gathered in the eventide to hear the poems read in our ears with such deep feeling, that we were impressed by them even when we could not realise their beauty of thought and diction. (pp. vii-viii)

It was not therefore to be wondered at that, in these short annual visits to Lincolnshire, one should look with awe upon the quaint old farmer who had, through my grandfather, given this or that story to the Poet Laureate for future immortality in his Lincolnshire dialect poem; or that one should like to run about by the side of an old servant of the family who had known “the owd Doctor Tennyson” and could tell quaint stories of the quarrels and the makings-up that took place at Halton-Holgate, and Somersby, after stormy political discussions at the dinner-table. (p. viii)

Another husbandman on the Rectory farm was the original of some of the quaint phrases in the Northern Farmer poems.  He, too, was an object of great interest to me.  But it was not till one came to live permanently at that old Lincolnshire house, within reach of Somersby, and went each summer eventide to fish in the Halton river, that one began to feel how the music made at Somersby was flowing right through our village, and that the brook spoken of in the “Ode to Memory” talked, all though one’s fishing hours, of Alfred Tennyson. (pp. viii-ix)

It was a dreary river enough, nor wrongly was it dubbed by the peasants “Halton Dreän.”  As brown after rain almost as the river Jordan, it bore the “filtered tribute of the rough woodland” down to the Boston Deeps, in a most unromantic, surly sort of way, with a kind of monotony in its looks, relieved only when the mowers went afield in early June, and the haymakers gave it large gifts of grass and flowers from the scythe. (p. ix)

It was not without the interest of bird life.  The kingfisher flashed by at the noons, and the twittering, wheeling company of sand-martins made summer always full of life and joyaunce.  In winter time the jacksnipe came up from the fen, and the kittiwake gull from the Boston deeps hungrily hunted its waters.  Now and again a heron stood knee-deep in the shallows with solemn patience at his fisher work, or passed seaward with a clanging cry. (p. ix)

For the rest, the only sound that generally broke the evening quietude of the Halton Dreän-side, was the blob of the watervole, as, at sight of the intruder, he took his header into the water from the grassy ledge, where he had been having his supper. (p. ix)

But always associated in my boyish mind with the stream were the cowslips and cuckoo-pint in the meadows, the hawthorn bushes, white with fragrant snow, and the bleating of the lambs that was “poured about one’s ears” in earlier spring.  I remember the intense joy with which I leaned upon the bridges of the little river, as it came down from Partney, to watch the minnow shoals flash and flicker and fade, and flash again to sight, above the ribbed sand, nor can I forget with what delight one hailed those “cresséd islets white in flower” that swayed in the quiet back eddies, or the marigolds by the bank, and with what pleasure one filled one’s hands with the scented mint, as one wandered by the stream. (pp. ix-x)

But it was of Tennyson that the river and its surroundings were eloquent.  There, at Ashby, was the moated grange, one of the many that went to the making of “Mariana’s moated grange” in the poet’s mind, and up by Partney was one of the many water-mills that allowed the poet vision of the mealy miller and the brimming waterdam, and gave him subject for his verse. (p. x)

One had, as one went fishing, the sense that somehow or other that “rivulet there by the Hall” that came down through the meadows of Saucethorpe to become the Halton Dreän and Steeping River and so to pass out to the Wash at Wainfleet, belonged to Alfred Tennyson.  Never was one quite so happy as when one took one’s pony to ride off to the sacred haunts of the poet’s boyhood and entered the copse wood of Holywell, beneath the “windy wold” to search, among the carven runes upon the sandstone outcrop, for some initial letter that might tell of how the Tennyson lads had there, in the olden time, left their mark. (pp. x-xi)

It was quite natural therefore that when one returned to the spot in manhood, one should ask questions of the elder folk among the villagers who remembered the poet and his brothers in the old Tennysonian days, and should put down such notes of Somersby and its neighbourhood as might serve to describe the cradle of the poet’s song.  The peasants with whom I spoke have now all passed away.  They were aged people, when I talked with them, nearly twenty years ago. (p. xi)

(Memories of the Tennysons, pp. vii-xii)