Classic Poetry from Passions in Poetry
Lord Alfred Tennyson 1809 - 1862
English poet and dramatist, generally considered to be the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry. Tennyson's major works include his Poems. Chiefly Lyrical (1830); his two volume work, again entitled Poems, of 1842 which includes, alongside rewritten earlier works, the dramatic monologue 'Ulysses', 'Morte d'Arthur' and 'Sir Galahad' - his first pieces dealing with Arthurian legend, 'Locksley Hall' and 'Break, Break, Break'; the novella Princess: a Medly (1847) and his In Memorium A.H.H. (1850), a tribute to his deceased friend Arthur Hallam.
Other major works, this time from Tennyson's second period of creative out put after being made poet laureate, include Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington (1852), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1854) and Maud (1855), what Tennyson referred to as his "monodrama".
He also wrote, in later years, a number of works centred on Arthurian legends, including The Idylls of the King (1859), The Holy Grail and Other Poems (1870) and Gareth and Lynette (1872), as well as some poetic dramas: Queen Mary (1875), Harold (1877), Becket (1884) and, his only prose work, The Promise of May (produced at the Globe Theatre in November 1882). Other important works are Despair (1881), Locksley Hall Sixty Years After (1886), Demeter and Other Poems (1889) and his famous Crossing the Bar (1889). At Alfred's request, his poem "Crossing the Bar," an epitaph of sorts, is always printed last in any collection of his works (our thanks to visitor Cynthia R. for reminding Passions of this oversight).
Tennyson, one of twelve children and later a first baron, was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire. From 1875 he attended Louth grammar school, followed, in 1827, by Trinity College, Cambridge where he made perhaps his greatest friendship ever with Arthur Hallam and joined the undergraduate club 'The Apostles'. Here, in 1829, Tennyson - having already published some poems, prior to 1827, anonymously in the ironically entitled Poems by Two Brothers (actually written by Alfred, Frederick and Charles) - won the Chancellor's Gold Medal for English with his poem 'Timbuctoo'.
In 1830 Tennyson and Hallam, along with other Apostle members, travelled to Spain to help in the failed revolution against Ferdinand VII, after which, in 1831, the death of Tennyson's father and the discovery of his debts led, in part, to Tennyson's leaving Cambridge without taking his degree. By this time his Poems. Chiefly Lyrical (1830) had been published and Hallam had become engaged to Tennyson's sister Emily.
In 1833 the second volume entitled Poems was published, but in the same year Hallam came to a tragic end in Venice, caused by a ruptured blood vessel. After this it was to be seven years before Tennyson published again in 1842, during which time he met, fell in love with and became engaged to another Emily; Emily Sellwood, the sister of one of his brother's brides.
In 1845 Tennyson received a Civil List Pension of £200 per annum and this was followed by publication of The Princess (1847) and, in 1850, the volume In Memorium A.H.H.. Beginning to win fame for his three volumes of poetry from 1830, 1832 and 1840, this year - 1850 - was to be a crucial one: Tennyson also married Emily Sellwood and, in November, was appointed poet laureate, successor to Wordsworth. This marked the beginning of his second major period of creativity from which came the works on the Duke of Wellington's death and the Charge of the Light Brigade as well as Maud (1855).
In 1884, by which time he was writing verse dramas, Tennyson was made a baron. He spent his last years at his residences on the Isle of Wight, where he had moved in 1853, and in Surrey, where he had had a summer house built in 1868.
Though his stature was immense in his own time, Twentieth-Century re-evaluations of Tennyson's work - spearheaded by T.S. Eliot - have been somewhat critical.