Lord Alfred Tennyson
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'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.
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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
| 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
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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
To view more of Tennyson's poems:
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
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