Lord Tennyson (also 1st Baron Tennyson) (6 August 1809 – 6
October 1892) was the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom after
William Wordsworth and is one of the most popular English poets
of his verse was based on classical or mythological themes, although
In Memoriam was written to his best friend Arthur Hallam, a fellow
poet and classmate at Trinity College, Cambridge who tragically
died from a cerebral hæmorrhage. Tennyson's most famous
work is Idylls of the King (1885), a series of narrative poems
based entirely on King Arthur and the Arthurian tales, as thematically
suggested by Sir Thomas Mallory's earlier tales on the legendary
king. During his career, Lord Tennyson attempted drama, but his
plays enjoyed little success even in his lifetime.
Alfred Tennyson was born in Lincolnshire, a rector's son and one
of 12 children. His father, George Clayton Tennyson, was the elder
of two sons, but was disinherited at an early age by his own father,
the landowner George Tennyson, in favour of his younger brother
Charles, who later took the name Charles Tennyson d'Eyncourt.
George Clayton Tennyson raised a large family but was perpetually
short of money.
drank heavily and became mentally unstable. Tennyson and two of
his elder brothers were writing poetry in their teens, and a collection
of poems by all three was published locally when Alfred was only
17. One of those brothers, Charles Tennyson Turner later married
Louisa Sellwood, younger sister of Alfred's future wife; the other
poet brother was Frederick Tennyson.
and first publication
Tennyson attended Louth grammar school and entered Trinity College,
Cambridge in 1828, where he joined the secret society called the
Cambridge Apostles. At Cambridge Tennyson met Arthur Henry Hallam,
who became his best friend.
published his first solo collection of poems, Poems Chiefly Lyrical
(1830+). Claribel and Mariana, which later took their place among
Tennyson's most celebrated poems, were included in this volume.
Although decried by some critics as oversentimental, his verse
soon proved popular and brought Tennyson to the attention of well-
known writers of the day including Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Return to Lincolnshire
and second publication
In the spring of 1831, Tennyson's father died, forcing him to
leave Cambridge before taking his degree. He returned to the rectory,
where he was permitted to live for another six years, and shared
responsibility for his widowed mother and her large brood. His
friend Hallam came to stay with him during the summer and became
engaged to Tennyson's sister, Emilia Tennyson.
1833, Tennyson published his second book of poetry, which included
his best-known poem, "The Lady of Shalott", a story
of a princess who cannot look at the world except through a reflection
in a mirror. As Sir Lancelot rides by the tower where she must
stay, she looks at him, and the curse comes to term; she dies
after she places herself in a small boat and floats down the river
to Camelot, her name written on the boat's stern. The volume met
heavy criticism, which so discouraged Tennyson that he did not
publish again for 10 more years, although he continued to write.
same year 1833 his friend Arthur Hallam had a cerebral hemorrhage
while on holiday in Vienna that year and died. It devastated Alfred,
but inspired him to produce a myriad of poetry that has become
some of the world's finest verse.
and his family were allowed to stay in the rectory for some time,
but later moved to Essex. An unwise investment in an ecclesiastical
wood-carving enterprise resulted in the loss of much of their
money, and this may have been one of the reasons why Tennyson
was so late in marrying.
publication and recognition
In 1842, while living modestly in London, Tennyson published two
volumes of Poems, the first of which included works already published
and the second of which was made up almost entirely of new poems.
They met with immediate success. The Princess, which came out
in 1847, was also popular.
It was in 1850 that Tennyson reached the pinnacle of his career,
being appointed Poet Laureate in succession to William Wordsworth
and in the same year producing his masterpiece, In Memoriam A.H.H.,
dedicated to Arthur Hallam. In the same year, Tennyson married
Emily Sellwood, whom he had known since childhood, in the village
of Shiplake. They had two sons, Hallam — named after his
friend — and Lionel.
He held the position of Poet Laureate from 1850 until his death,
turning out appropriate but mediocre verse, such as a poem of
greeting to Alexandra of Denmark when she arrived in Britain to
marry the future King Edward VII. In 1855, Tennyson produced one
of his best known works, The Charge of the Light Brigade, a dramatic
tribute to the British cavalrymen involved in an ill-advised charge
on 25 October 1854, during the Crimean War. Other works written
as Laureate include Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington
and Ode Sung at the Opening of the International Exhibition.
Victoria was an ardent admirer of Tennyson's work, and in 1884
created him Baron Tennyson of Blackdown in the County of Sussex
and of Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. He was the first English
writer raised to the peerage. A passionate man with some peculiarities
of nature, he was never particularly comfortable as a peer, and
it is widely held that he took the peerage in order to secure
a future for his son Hallam.
exist of Lord Tennyson declaiming his own poetry, which were made
Edison, but they are of relatively poor quality.
continued writing into his eighties, and died on 6 October 1892,
aged 83. He was buried at Westminster Abbey. He was succeeded
as 2nd Baron Tennyson by his son, Hallam, who produced an authorised
biography of his father in 1897, and was later the second Governor-General