Alfred Tennyson

A lfred Lord Tennyson is one of the most popular poets of the Victorian Era in England. He was named Poet Laureate after William Wordsworth and served in the position for forty-two years. He is remembered for his sober style and moralizing tone. Two of his best-known poems are ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’ and ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’. 

Alfred Lord Tennyson


Life Facts

  • Alfred Lord Tennyson was born in August of 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England.
  • Tennyson published his masterpiece, In memoriam A.H.H. in 1850. 
  • He was named Poet Laureate after William Wordsworth.
  • Alfred Tennyson died at the age of 83 in October of 1892.
  • His body was interred at Westminster Abby.

Interesting Facts

  • Tennyson met his friend, Arthur Hallam at Trinity College, Cambridge.
  • His books of verse published in the early 1830s were met with poor reviews. 
  • Tennyson’s book ‘Poems’ was a success, published in 1842. 
  • In 1884 he was named Baron Tennyson, the first person to be raised to a British peerage due to his poetic works.
  • Tennyson was still writing when he was in his 80s. 


Famous Poems by Alfred Tennyson

‘Tears, Idle Tears was published in 1847 and is one of several poems that’s taken from The Princess. The speaker is a court maiden who sings an emotional song about summer, birds, love, life, and death. She presents the listener with a series of images that bring endless tears.

 

‘The Lady of Shalott’ is a well-studied and commonly read poem that was published in 1833. It is loosely based on the Arthurian legend of a woman who dies of unrequited love. Tennyson changes the basis of the story around slightly, rethinking it so that the main character is suffering from a curse. She’s doomed to only see the world through a mirror. IF she turns around and actually sees it for herself, then she’ll die.

 

‘The Lotos-eaters’ is another of Tennyson’s most popular poems and is based on mythology. Specifically, Tennyson was inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and the story of Odysseus men stumbling upon the land of the lotus-eaters and eating lots themselves. The first part of the poem describes the story of the men and their newfound desire to stay where they are forever, never to return home. The second part is the “Choric Song”.

 

‘Tithonus’ was first published in 1833 with the title ‘Tithon’. The poem is characteristic of Tennyson’s style. It uses the story of Tithonus, a character from Greek mythology to speak on the inevitability of death. The story describes Tithonus who wishes for eternal life and how that wish backfires. He lives forever but he also continues to age.

 

‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’ is a long poem published in 1850 and dedicated to the life and loss of Arthur Henry Hallam, one of Tennyson’s closest friends. He was only twenty-two years old when he died and his loss had an enormous impact on the poet. The poem is 131 sections long with both a prologue and epilogue that speak on a variety of topics connected to life, death, love, and friendship.


Early Life

Alfred Lord Tennyson was born in August of 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England. His father was a deeply religious man and worked as a rector of Somersby, Benniworth, and Bag Enderby, as well as vicar of Grimsby. He was said to be a wise and well-intentioned man who was able to successfully support his family’s solidly middle-class lifestyle. Tennyson was one of twelve children and along with two of his brother, was engaged with poetry from a young age. By the age of twelve, Tennyson had written his first epic poem that consisted of 6,000 lines, and by the time he was seventeen he and his brothers had a collection of poetry published. 

 

From 1816 to 1820, Tennyson attended Kind Edward VI Grammar School and then left his home to attend Trinity College, Cambridge in 1827. It was there that he and his brother, Charles, co-published a book of poems titled, Poems by Two Brothers. This book put Tennyson on the radar of other prolific college writers and he made friends with another student, Arthur Hallam. After a brief but intense friendship, Hallam died, leaving a bereft Tennyson to devote a number of poems to his memory. 


Literary Career

From 1830 to 1833, Tennyson published two more books of poetry. These were not met with outstanding reviews, a fact which greatly disappointed him. His naturally shy disposition would keep him from publishing again for another nine years. Tennyson finally met with some success in 1842 after the publication of this book, Poems in two volumes.

 

It was in 1850 that Tennyson reached the peak of his career. He published what is considered to be his masterpiece, In Memoriam A.H.H. This piece solidified his reputation and future career and led to his naming as Poet Laureate, following directly behind Williams Wordsworth. He would hold this position until his death. That same year he married Emily Sellwood, with whom he would have two sons. 


Death

Tennyson’s popularity and success allowed him to continue writing full time and purchase a home for his family in the country.  In 1884 he was named Baron Tennyson, the first person to be raised to a British peerage due to his poetic works. Tennyson continued to write into his 80s and died at the age of 83 in October of 1892. His body was interred at Westminster Abby, and to this day he remains one of the most popular Victorian poets. 


Influence from other Poets

Alfred Tennyson was notably influenced by writers such as John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Shakespeare, and Edmund Spenser. 


Poems by Alfred Tennyson

Explore poetry by Alfred Tennyson below, analyzed by the team at Poem Analysis.

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