Alfred Lord Tennyson 1909-1892
Background • Born August 6, 1809. at Somersby • Several men in his family had mental and physical problems: epilepsy, insanity, excessive drinking • Tennyson’s father was abusive and violent
Cambridge • Tennyson attended Trinity College, Cambridge • Invited to join The Apostles, an undergraduate club. • This group included his lifelong friends. • Most important friendship was with Arthur Hallam. He and Tennyson knew each other for only four years, but their intense friendship had a major influence on the poet. • Hallam’s death in 1833 when he was only 22 lead to his best poetry, including In Memoriam.
1830 and 1832 Poems • In 1830, Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical • Poems (1832 and 1833) were attacked by critics as obscure and affected. • Criticism kept Tennyson from publishing again for another nine years.
1842 Poems • Established Tennyson’s career as a writer • This volume includes “The Lady of Shalott,” “The Lotus Eaters,” and “Ulysses.”
In Memoriam • Tennyson’s greatest poem • Published in 1850 • Represents his struggle with Hallam’s death and with the new developments in astronomy, biology, and geology that were diminishing man’s stature in the universe. • After publication of this poem, Tennyson was named Poet Laureate.
Tennyson’s Later Poetry • Tennyson’s later poetry follows a narrative style • Several poems dealt with national affairs • By this time, Tennyson was established as the most popular poet of the Victorian period. The money from his poetry allowed him to purchase a house in the country and write in seclusion. • His appearance enhanced his notoriety.
Idylls of the King • Large-scale epic poem that occupied the second half of his career. • Uses the Arthurian legend to construct a vision of the rise and fall of civilization. • Tennyson’s most extensive social vision.
Themes in Tennyson’s Poetry • The divided self • Links external scenery to interior states of mind. • The historical past • The mythological past • Tennyson’s personal past • Geological time and evolutionary history • Social and political concerns
Tennyson’s Reputation • Tennyson was the most popular poet in England in his own day • He was the target of mockery by his immediate successors, the Edwardians and Georgians. • Today, many critics consider Tennyson to be the greatest poet of the Victorian Age.