Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Life
Regarded as a major Victorian poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson was born on August 6, 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire in England. One of eleven siblings of a rector, Tennyson was the fourth child. Along with his two brothers Charles and Frederick, Tennyson went to Louth Grammar School in 1816, which did not satisfy him. He disliked it so much so that he never even passed by it after he left.
During his school years, Tennyson was influenced by some of the most popular poets of the era, such as Lord Byron and John Keats. However, he started composing poems in the style of John Milton, Sir Walter Scott, and Alexander Pope instead. His amazing understanding of the Elizabethan verse is clear from his unpublished collection of “The Devil and the Lady.”
Tennyson’s father’s health started deteriorating while Tennyson was at school. Depressed, he sought refuge in drinking. Despite this, he continued with his writing fervor. In collaboration with his older brother Charles, he produced another collection, “Poems by Two Brothers,” in 1826. In 1827, Charles and Alfred joined their brother Frederick at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he met Arthur Henry Hallam and befriended him. Both Tennyson and Hallam gained membership to the secret society called the Cambridge Apostles.
Tennyson’s reputation as a poet skyrocketed at Cambridge where he received the Chancellor’s Gold Medal for his work “Timbuctoo,” published in 1829. Sadly, in 1931, his father passed away, and the family’s miseries increased on discovering that their father had left behind large debts. When Tennyson discovered this, he left Cambridge without obtaining a degree.
Tennyson carried on with his writing, and published his third collection of poetry in 1842. When his brother Charles married Louisa Sellwood in 1836, Tennyson fell in love with the sister of his brother’s wife, Emily. Unfortunately, her father did not like this match. In the meantime, Tennyson became friends with famous figures of that time like Thomas Carlyle, Walter Savage Landor, and William Ewart Gladstone. His friendships with this elite circle led to his success of winning over Emily’s father. The pair got engaged and Tennyson subsequently married Emily in 1850.
Tennyson received many awards and became Poet Laureate in the same year. He continued writing poems until his death in 1892 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He left two sons behind.
Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Works
Tennyson published his first collection,“Poems Chiefly Lyrical,” in1830.The mostpopular poems from this collection were “Mariana” and“Claribel.” Despite the fact that Tennyson was taken to task by the critics for being overly sentimental, his verses proved very popular and won him accolades.
In 1833, Alfred published his next book that included the very popular poem “The Lady of Shalott.” This volume also met with heavy criticism, which discouraged him. Disenchanted, Tennyson did not publish more poems for next ten years, though he continued writing. During these years his friend Hallam died – a sorrowful experience for Tennyson, which left a profound impact on him. Hallam’s sudden demise inspired Tennyson to create masterpieces like “In Memoriam A.H.H.” and “In the Valley of Cauteretz.”
Tennyson’s third collection, “Poems,” was published in 1842, and it received instantaneous success. He followed this with the collections “Ulysses,” “Tithonus,” and “Locksley Hall.” Tennyson also published one of his best poems, “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” in 1855.
Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Style and Popular Poems
Tennyson revised and polished his manuscripts several times before sending them to the publishers. He employed a wide range of styles, and had a deep understanding of meter and rhyme scheme. He used allusions in different genres, and often added motifs, symbols and images. Sometimes he used a simple and plain style, whereas some of his poems contain highly sensuous language. Tennyson merged his language with contrasting images, which resonate throughout his poems. He adopted richness of imagery from Romantic poets like Edmund Spenser and John Keats, and handled rhythm tactfully. Tennyson’s language has an unsurpassed musical quality.
The popular poems of Tennyson include “Mariana,” The Dying Swan,” “The Lotus Eaters,” “The Lady of Shalott,” “The Two Voices,” “Ulysses,” “The Princess,” “The Eagle,” “Ring Out, Wild Bells,” “Maud,” “Idylls of the King,” and “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
More about His Life
British Prime Minister Robert Peel awarded Tennyson with a grant of 200 pounds in 1845. Queen Victoria also became his passionate admirer specifically because of “In Memoriam A.A.H.” She held two meetings with him, which she recorded in detail in her personal diary. Tennyson was appointed as Poet Laureate after the death of Wordsworth in 1850 – a position he held until his own death in 1892.