English Literature » Alfred Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson

Biography

 

His father, the Reverend George Tennyson, tutored his sons 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.

Tennyson escaped home in 1827 to attend Trinity College, Cambridge. In that same year, he and his brother Charles published Poems by Two Brothers. Although the poems in the book were mostly juvenilia, they attracted the attention of the “Apostles,” an undergraduate literary club led by Arthur Hallam. The “Apostles” provided Tennyson, who was tremendously shy, with much needed friendship and confidence as a poet. Hallam and Tennyson became the best of friends; they toured Europe together in 1830 and again in 1832. Hallam’s sudden death in 1833 greatly affected the young poet. The long elegy In Memoriam and many of Tennyson’s other poems are tributes to Hallam.

In 1830, Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical and in 1832 he published a second volume entitled simply Poems. Some reviewers condemned these books as “affected” and “obscure.” Tennyson, stung by the reviews, would not publish another book for nine years. In 1836, he became engaged to Emily Sellwood. When he lost his inheritance on a bad investment in 1840, Sellwood’s family called off the engagement. In 1842, however, Tennyson’s Poems in two volumes was a tremendous critical and popular success. In 1850, with the publication of In Memoriam, Tennyson became one of Britain’s most popular poets. He was selected Poet Laureate in succession to Wordsworth. In that same year, he married Emily Sellwood. They had two sons, Hallam and Lionel.

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, he regularly wore a cloak and a broad brimmed hat—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. Tennyson died on October 6, 1892, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Poems by Alfred Tennyson

  1. ‘None
  2. A Dedication
  3. A Dream of Fair Women
  4. A Farewell
  5. A Welcome to Alexandra
  6. After-Thought
  7. All Things Will Die
  8. Amphion
  9. Audley Court
  10. Aylmer’s Field
  11. Boadicea
  12. Break, Break, Break
  13. Claribel
  14. Come Down, O Maid
  15. Cradle Song
  16. Crossing the Bar
  17. Enoch Arden
  18. Flower in the Crannied Wall
  19. Godiva
  20. Hero To Leander
  21. In Quantity
  22. In the Valley of Cauteretz
  23. In the Valley of the Cauteretz
  24. Late, Late, so Late
  25. Locksley Hall
  26. Mariana
  27. Mariana in the South
  28. Marriage Morning
  29. Milton
  30. Morte d’Arthur
  31. New Year’s Eve
  32. Northern Farmer
  33. Northern Farmer: New Style
  34. Northern Farmer: Old Style
  35. Nothing Will Die
  36. Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal
  37. Ode
  38. Oenone
  39. Of Old Sat Freedom on the Heights
  40. Poland
  41. Recollections of the Arabian Nights
  42. Requiescat
  43. Sea Dreams
  44. Sir Galahad
  45. Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere
  46. Specimen of a Translation of the Iliad in Blank Verse
  47. St Simeon Stylites
  48. St. Agnes’ Eve
  49. Tears, Idle Tears
  50. The Ballad of Oriana
  51. The Charge of the Light Brigade
  52. The Death Of The Old Year
  53. The Deserted House
  54. The Dying Swan
  55. The Eagle
  56. The Flower
  57. The Gardener’s Daughter
  58. The Golden Year
  59. The Goose
  60. The Grandmother
  61. The Higher Pantheism
  62. The Islet
  63. The Kraken
  64. The Lady of Shalott
  65. The Lady of Shalott (1832)
  66. The Lady of Shalott (1842)
  67. The Letters
  68. The Lotos-Eaters
  69. The Mermaid
  70. The Merman
  71. The Miller’s Daughter
  72. The Miller’s Daughter
  73. The Palace of Art
  74. The Poet
  75. The Poet’s Mind
  76. The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet
  77. The Ringlet
  78. The Sailor Boy
  79. The Sleeping Beauty
  80. The Spiteful Letter
  81. The Voyage
  82. Timbuctoo
  83. Tithonus
  84. Tithonus
  85. To J. S.
  86. To the Rev. F.D.Maurice
  87. To Virgil
  88. To Virgil, Written at the Request of the Manuans for the Nineteenth Centenary of Virgil’s Death
  89. Ulysses
  90. Wages
  91. Walking to the Mail
  92. You Ask Me, Why, Tho’ Ill at Ease