Lord Alfred Tennyson

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The Tennyson Page

'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

by Alfred Lord Tennyson, "In Memoriam"


Alfred Tennyson was born on August 6, 1809, in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England, third surviving child of the Rev. George Clayton Tennyson and Elizabeth Fytche Tennyson. His initial education was conducted largely by his clergyman father who tutored him in classical and modern languages. In the 1820s, however, Tennyson's father began to suffer frequent mental breakdowns that were exacerbated by alcoholism.
One of Tennyson's brothers had violent quarrels with his father, a second was later confined to an insane asylum, and another became an opium addict.
The boy showed an early interest and talent in poetic composition, working original poems in a variety of meters and also successfully imitating the style of such famous poets as Lord Byron, whom he greatly admired. Some of his boyhood poetry was published in collaboration with his brothers in Poems by Two Brothers (1827).

He studied at Cambridge, and published his first poetry in 1829, Chiefly Lyrical and in 1832 he published a second volume entitled simply "Poems". but it was not well received; Some reviewers condemned these books as "affected" and "obscure." Tennyson was stung by the reviews. A revised volume in 1842 established his reputation, including such major poems as ‘The Lady of Shallott’ and ‘The Lotus-eaters’, "The Miller’s Daughter," "The Palace of Art," and "A Dream of Fair Women. In the summer of 1830, with his close friend Arthur Hallam, he joined a Spanish revolutionary army, but participated in no military engagements.

Picture is from:
The Tennyson Page

In 1831, following the death of his father, Tennyson left Cambridge without taking a degree. The sudden death of his friend Hallam in 1833 produced in Tennyson a profound spiritual depression, and he vowed to refrain from issuing any more of his verse for a period of ten years. During this time he devoted himself to reading and meditation. While refusing to publish, he did continue to write, producing, for example, The Two Voices (1834), a philosophical poem on death and immortality.

In 1842, at the expiration of his self-imposed period of silence, Tennyson won wide acclaim with the publication of his two-volume Poems. This collection, containing such works as "Morte d’Arthur," an idyll based on Arthurian legend; "Locksley Hall"; and the poignant lyric "Break, Break, Break," firmly established Tennyson’s position as the foremost poet of his day. Tennyson’s first long poem after gaining literary recognition was The Princess (1847), a romantic treatment in musical blank verse of the question of women’s rights.

His major poetic achievement was the elegy mourning the death of his friend Arthur Hallam, ‘In Memoriam’ in 1850; (a loose organization of this series of lyrics, written over a period of 17 years, and the intensely personal character of the poem perplexed many of the readers of Tennyson’s day)

In Memoriam has since taken its place as one of the great elegies in English literature, and in the same year(1850) he succeeded Wordsworth as poet laureate and married Emily Sarah Sellwood, the love of his life. They had two sons, Hallam and Lionel.

In 1854 appeared "The Charge of the Light Brigade," written, as one of the duties of his laureateship, to celebrate a memorable action by a British calvary unit in the Crimean War. In the following year Maud, and Other Poems was published.

Emily Sellwood Tennyson
Picture is from:
The Tennyson Page

At the age of 41, Tennyson had established himself as the most popular poet of the Victorian era. The money from his poetry (at times exceeding 10,000 pounds per year) allowed him to purchase a house in the country and to write in relative seclusion. His appearance, a large and bearded man, regularly wore a cloak and a broad brimmed hat that enhanced his notoriety. He read his poetry with a booming voice, often compared to that of Dylan Thomas. In 1859, Tennyson published the first poems of Idylls of the Kings, which sold more than 10,000 copies in one month. In 1884, he accepted a peerage, becoming Alfred Lord Tennyson.

One of the great representative figures of the Victorian age. His writing encompasses many poetic styles and includes what some consider the finest idyllic poetry in the language.

Tennyson died on October 6, 1892, at the age of 83, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

A dedication
The Flower
The Sailor Boy


To view more of Tennyson's poems:
Famous Poets and Poems


Some more of his poems includes:

After-Thought, All Things Will Die, Amphion, And ask ye why these sad tears stream?, Audley Court, Aylmer's Field, The Ballad of Oriana, Beautiful City The Beggar Maid, The Blackbird, Boadicea, The Burial of Love, By an Evolutionist, The Captain, The Charge of the Heavy Brigade, Circumstance, Claribel, Come Down, O Maid, Come not, When I am Dead, The Coming of Arthur, Cradle Song, Crossing of the Bar The Daisy, The Dawn, The Day-Dream, Dedication Demeter and Persephone, The Deserted House, The Eagle, Enoch Arden, A Farewell, Flower in the Crannied Wall, Gareth and Lynett,The Grandmother, The Holy Grail, In Memoriam,In the Valley of Cauteretz,The Islet, The Kraken, The Last Tournament, The Letters, Lucretius,Morte d'Arthur, Northern Farmer, Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal,The Oak, The Princess, Progress of Spring, Recollections of the Arabian Nights,Requiescat,The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet, The Ringlet, Sea Dreams, Song, The Spiteful Letter, Tears, Idle Tears Tiresias,Tithonus,To Virgil,Ulysses, The Voyage, Wages, A Welcome to Alexandra.


[Poet's Corner Index]


Reference, Research and Source Information

The History Channel

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