Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born on August 5, 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire. He was educated by his father, George Clayton Tennyson, a clergyman who encouraged his interest in poetry. Tennyson then studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he joined the “The Apostles”, an undergraduate club with literary and philosophical interests, and met Arthur Henry Hallam, who became his closet friend.
In 1830 he published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical; many of these early texts can be considered apprentice work in which the influence of the Romantic poets Shelley and Keats is evident. After his father’s death and because of financial problems Tennyson was compelled to leave Cambridge and never graduated.
The collection Poems appeared in 1832, it received unfavourable reviews, this hurt him so greatly that Tennyson did not publish anything for ten years. In 1833 he was overcome with grief and shocked by Hallam’s death. In the same year the poet began the composition of In Memoriam dedicated to his best friend and usually regarded as his masterpiece; in the poem Tennyson tries to reconcile his orthodox religious faith with Darwin’s theory of evolution. After a long silence, Tennyson returned in 1842 with a new collection entitled Poems in two volumes which container The Lady of Shallot, The Lotus Easters, Tithonus and the dramatic monologue Ulysses, composed in blank verse. This time he had great success. Five years later The princess was published; in it appeared the famous lyric Tears, Idle Tears.
In 1850 Tennyson succeeded Wordsworth as a poet laureate, in the same year In Memoriam was published, and the poet, thanks to his fianancial security, was able to marry Emily Sellwood. The poem Maud, a story of love and madness consisting of a number of dramatic monologues by the same speaker was published in 1855. It was follwed, between 1859 and 1885, by Idylls of the king, a series of twelve allegorical poems written in blank verse dealing with king Arthur and his Knights of The Round Table, Enoch Arden, Ballads and Other Poems (1880), Tireless and Other Poems (1885), Demeter and other Poems.
In 1884 Tennyson was made a peer in recognition of his literary work. He died at Aldworth, Surrey, in 1892 and was buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.