Hear Voices from the 19th Century: Tennyson, Gladstone & Tchaikovsky

Head over to Sound­Cloud, and you’ll find 10 audio files that span three cen­turies. It’s a fair­ly ran­dom col­lec­tion, we’ll admit. But two record­ings from the 19th cen­tu­ry imme­di­ate­ly stand out.

First we have Alfred Lord Ten­nyson (1809 – 1892), Poet Lau­re­ate of the Unit­ed King­dom dur­ing Queen Vic­to­ri­a’s reign, read­ing “The Charge of the Light Brigade” on the wax cylin­der in 1890.

And then we get to hear echoes of the voice of William Glad­stone, the four-time Prime Min­is­ter of Great Britain (1809 — 1898). Here, Glad­stone’s voice was record­ed by Thomas Edis­on’s phono­graph cylin­der (1888), the same device that lets us lis­ten to Tchaikovsky (The Nut­crack­er, the 1812 Over­ture, etc.) chat­ting with his friends. Some have doubt­ed the authen­tic­i­ty of the Glad­stone record­ing, but it still remains gen­er­al­ly accept­ed.

For more on record­ings from the 19th cen­tu­ry, we’d rec­om­mend spend­ing some time with a five-part BBC series called Gramo­phones & Grooves. It takes you into the ear­ly record­ing indus­try and lets you hear count­less oth­er voic­es.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.