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Famous Like Me > Writer > T > Alfred Lord Tennyson

Profile of Alfred Lord Tennyson on Famous Like Me

Name: Alfred Lord Tennyson  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 6th August 1809
Place of Birth: Somersby, Lincolnshire, England, UK
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
The Lord TennysonBritish poet

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (August 6, 1809 – October 6, 1892) was one of the most popular English poets of his time.

Much of his verse was based on classical or mythological themes. Idylls of the King (1859) takes its subject from Arthurian romance. Later in his career, he attempted drama, but his plays enjoyed little success even in his lifetime.

Early Life

Tennyson was born in Lincolnshire, a rector's son and one of 12 children. His father had fallen out with his family and been disinherited; he 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.

Education 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.

He published his first solo collection of poems, Poems Chiefly Lyrical in 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.

In 1833, Tennyson published his second book of poetry, which included his best-known poem, The Lady of Shalott. The volume met heavy criticism, which so discouraged Tennyson that he did not publish again for 10 more years, although he continued to write.

1833 also struck another heavy blow to Tennyson: his friend Hallam was stricken with influenza and died in the September of that year.

Tennyson 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.

Third Publication and Recognition

The Lord TennysonSketch portrait

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.

The Golden Year

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.

The Poet Laureate

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 October 25, 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.

Queen Victoria was an ardent admirer of Tennyson's work, and in 1884 created him Baron Tennyson, of Aldworth in the County of Sussex and of Freshwater in the Isle of Wight. He was the first English writer raised to the peerage.

Recordings exist of Lord Tennyson declaiming his own poetry, but they are of poor quality.

Tennyson continued writing into his eighties, and died on October 6, 1892. 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 of Australia.

Statue of Lord Tennyson in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Preceded by:
William Wordsworth
British Poet Laureate
Succeeded by:
Alfred Austin

Preceded by:
New creation
Baron Tennyson Succeeded by:
Hallam Tennyson

Notable works

  • The Kraken (1830)
  • Harold (1876) - began a revival of interest in King Harold
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade
  • The Lady of Shalott
  • In Memoriam A.H.H.
  • Ulysses
  • Locksley Hall
  • Crossing the Bar
  • Tithonus
  • The Lotus-Eaters (Wikisource)
  • Idylls of the King
  • Maud
  • The Epic
  • Mariana

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Alfred Lord Tennyson