cover image: Dora / Alfred Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892) was Poet Laureate for almost half a century, from 1850 to the end of his life. Today he is retroactively known as Alfred, comma, Lord Tennyson, though he wasn’t awarded the peerage until 1883—the first poet to be so honored. (Earlier writers such as Walter Scott had to settle for baronet­cies, while Lord Byron was born to his title.)

Tennyson’s career had something of a rocky start. His first collection, co-written with two older brothers, came out when he was not quite 18. It sank without a ripple, and was followed by other, equally unsuccessful works before he hit it big with Poems in 1842. Five years later came The Princess, later to become the basis for Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1884 Princess Ida.

Among his minor works was the short narrative poem “Dora”, first published in 1856 and included in the illustrated Moxon edition the following year. Although not one of his enormous hits, it must have been remembered for some time afterward: it figures in the 1871 novel Dora Thorne, and there is even a 1913 silent film.


W. Taylor signature

Thirty years after its original publication—and a few years before the U.S. enacted international copyright—came an American edition of Dora illustrated by William Ladd Taylor (1854–1926). The illustrations seem to have been done at a leisurely pace, since the artist’s signature variously reads ’85 or ’86.

According to the title page, Taylor’s illustrations were done “under the supervision of” George Theodore Andrew (1843–1934). Born in England, Andrew came to the United States as a child, and learned engraving from his father, John A. Andrew.

I have added two illustrations from the 1857 Moxon edition, both by John Everett Millais. In the book, they were shown at the beginning and end of the poem; I have put them where they will do the most good. For more about Millais, see the notes to Orley Farm.


This ebook is based on the 1887 Boston and New York edition, with added illustrations as described above. The cover image at the top of this page is taken from a different copy of the same edition, because the primary copy hasn’t aged well. Or possibly didn’t scan well; see below. There’s no telling which version is closer to the original.

I didn’t spot any typographical errors. Page numbers in [brackets] indicate full-page illustrations that have been moved to the nearest paragraph break.

cover image

young woman standing pensively by a farm gate






Copyright, 1886,
By Lee and Shepard,
All rights reserved.


Rockwell and Churchill,


stook of grain in a field


drawn and engraved under the supervision of


title “Dora” with sheaf of grain


large stone armhouse overlooking a field with sheep

WITH farmer Allan at the farm abode

William and Dora. William was his son,

And she his niece. He often look’d at them,

And often thought, ‘I’ll make them man and wife.’

Now Dora felt her uncle’s will in all,

And yearn’d towards William; but the youth, because

He had been always with her in the house,

Thought not of Dora.

young man and old man confronting each other across a table



Then there came a day

When Allan call’d his son, and said, ‘My son:

I married late, but I would wish to see

My grandchild on my knees before I die:

And I have set my heart upon a match.

Now therefore look to Dora; she is well

To look to; thrifty too beyond her age.

She is my brother’s daughter; he and I

Had once hard words, and parted, and he died

In foreign lands; but for his sake I bred

His daughter Dora: take her for your wife;

For I have wish’d this marriage, night and day,

For many years.’ But William answer’d short;

‘I cannot marry Dora; by my life,

I will not marry Dora.’ Then the old man

Was wroth, and doubled up his hands, and said:

‘You will not, boy! you dare to answer thus!

But in my time a father’s word was law,

And so it shall be now for me. Look to it;

Consider, William: take a month to think,

And let me have an answer to my wish;

Or, by the Lord that made me, you shall pack,

And never more darken my doors again.’


old man seated, young man standing in a bare paneled room


But William answer’d madly; bit his lips,

And broke away. The more he look’d at her

The less he liked her; and his ways were harsh;

But Dora bore them meekly. Then before

The month was out he left his father’s house,

And hired himself to work within the fields;

And half in love, half spite, he woo’d and wed

A laborer’s daughter, Mary Morrison.

seated young man looking at young woman by an open window

Then, when the bells were ringing, Allan call’d

His niece and said: ‘My girl, I love you well;

But if you speak with him that was my son,

Or change a word with her he calls his wife,

My home is none of yours. My will is law.’


And Dora promised, being meek. She thought,

‘It cannot be: my uncle’s mind will change!’

man in a workman’s smock carrying a basket

And days went on, and there was born a boy

To William; then distresses came on him;

And day by day he pass’d his father’s gate,

Heart-broken, and his father help’d him not.

But Dora stored what little she could save,

And sent it them by stealth, nor did they know

Who sent it; till at last a fever seized

On William, and in harvest time he died.


one young woman comforting another

Then Dora went to Mary. Mary sat

And look’d with tears upon her boy, and thought

Hard things of Dora. Dora came and said:

‘I have obey’d my uncle until now,

And I have sinn’d, for it was all thro’ me

This evil came on William at the first.


But, Mary, for the sake of him that’s gone,

And for your sake, the woman that he chose,

And for this orphan, I am come to you:

You know there has not been for these five years

So full a harvest: let me take the boy,

And I will set him in my uncle’s eye

Among the wheat; that when his heart is glad

Of the full harvest, he may see the boy,

And bless him for the sake of him that’s gone.’

decorative vignette: flowers

And Dora took the child, and went her way

Across the wheat, and sat upon a mound

That was unsown, where many poppies grew.

Far off the farmer came into the field

And spied her not; for none of all his men

Dare tell him Dora waited with the child;

And Dora would have risen and gone to him,

But her heart fail’d her; and the reapers reap’d,

And the sun fell, and all the land was dark.


young woman carrying a small child


But when the morrow came she rose and took

The child once more, and sat upon the mound;

And made a little wreath of all the flowers

That grew about, and tied it round his hat,

To make him pleasing in her uncle’s eye.

young woman talking to a small child, among flowers

Then when the farmer pass’d into the field


He spied her, and he left his men at work,

And came and said: ‘Where were you yesterday?

Whose child is that? What are you doing here?’

So Dora cast her eyes upon the ground,

And answer’d softly, ‘This is William’s child!’—

‘And did I not,’ said Allan, ‘did I not

Forbid you, Dora?’ Dora said again:

‘Do with me as you will, but take the child,

And bless him for the sake of him that’s gone!’

man with hands on hips looking at woman and child


And Allan said, ‘I see it is a trick

Got up betwixt you and the woman there.

I must be taught my duty, and by you!

You knew my word was law, and yet you dared

To slight it. Well—for I will take the boy;

But go you hence, and never see me more.’

sad-looking child by sheaf of grain

So saying, he took the boy, that cried aloud

And struggled hard. The wreath of flowers fell

At Dora’s feet. She bow’d upon her hands,

And the boy’s cry came to her from the field,

More and more distant.


She bow’d down her head,

Remembering the day when first she came,

And all the things that had been.

weeping woman, with man carrying a scythe in the background

She bow’d down

And wept in secret; and the reapers reap’d,

And the sun fell, and all the land was dark.


young woman hesitantly opens a cottage door

Then Dora went to Mary’s house, and stood

Upon the threshold. Mary saw the boy

Was not with Dora. She broke out in praise

To God, that help’d her in her widowhood.

And Dora said, ‘My uncle took the boy;

But, Mary, let me live and work with you:

He says that he will never see me more.’

Then answer’d Mary, ‘This shall never be,

That thou shouldst take my trouble on thyself:

And, now I think, he shall not have the boy,


For he will teach him hardness, and to slight

His mother; therefore thou and I will go,

And I will have my boy, and bring him home;

And I will beg of him to take thee back;

But if he will not take thee back again,

Then thou and I will live within one house,

And work for William’s child, until he grows

Of age to help us.’


small child at knees of seated old man

So the women kiss’d

Each other, and set out, and reach’d the farm.

The door was off the latch: they peep’d and saw

The boy set up betwixt his grandsire’s knees,

Who thrust him in the hollows of his arm,

And clapt him on the hands and on the cheeks,

Like one that loved him: and the lad stretch’d out

And babbled for the golden seal, that hung

From Allan’s watch, and sparkled by the fire.

Then they came in: but when the boy beheld

His mother, he cried out to come to her:

And Allan set him down, and Mary said:

two women and child standing before seated old man

‘O father!—if you let me call you so—

I never came a-begging for myself,

Or William, or this child; but now I come


For Dora: take her back; she loves you well.

O Sir, when William died, he died at peace

With all men; for I ask’d him, and he said,

He could not ever rue his marrying me—

I had been a patient wife: but, Sir, he said

That he was wrong to cross his father thus:

“God bless him!” he said, “and may he never know


The troubles I have gone thro’!” Then he turn’d

His face and pass’d—unhappy that I am!

But now, sir, let me have my boy, for you

Will make him hard, and he will learn to slight

His father’s memory; and take Dora back,

And let all this be as it was before.’

So Mary said, and Dora hid her face

By Mary. There was silence in the room;

two young women embracing weeping man


And all at once the old man burst in sobs;

‘I have been to blame—to blame. I have kill’d my son.

I have kill’d him—but I loved him—my dear son.

May God forgive me!—I have been to blame.

Kiss me, my children.’

Then they clung about

The old man’s neck, and kiss’d him many times,

And all the man was broken with remorse;

And all his love came back a hundred fold;

And for three hours he sobb’d o’er William’s child

Thinking of William.


two woman and small child embracing seated man


So those four abode

Within one house together; and, as years

Went forward, Mary took another mate;

But Dora lived unmarried till her death.

old man and half-grown boy walking hand in hand

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.