Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson

Overview
Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, FRS (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) was Poet Laureate
Poet Laureate
A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government and is often expected to compose poems for state occasions and other government events...

 of the United Kingdom during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular poets in the English language.

Tennyson excelled at penning short lyrics, such as "In the Valley of Cauteretz", "Break, Break, Break
Break, Break, Break
Break, Break, Break is a 1914 American silent short film directed by Harry A. Pollard. A period drama written by Sydney Ayres, the film starred William Garwood and Louise Lester....

", "The Charge of the Light Brigade
The Charge of the Light Brigade (poem)
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" is an 1854 narrative poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson about the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War...

", "Tears, Idle Tears
Tears, Idle Tears
"Tears, Idle Tears" is a lyric poem written in 1847 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson , the Victorian-era English poet. Published as one of the "songs" in his The Princess , it is regarded for the quality of its lyrics. A Tennyson anthology describes the poem as "one of the most Virgilian of Tennyson's...

" and "Crossing the Bar
Crossing the Bar
"Crossing the Bar" is an 1889 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson that is traditionally the last poem in collections of his work. It is thought that Tennyson wrote it as his own elegy, as the poem has a tone of finality about it...

". Much of his verse was based on classical
Classical mythology
Classical mythology or Greco-Roman mythology is the cultural reception of myths from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Along with philosophy and political thought, mythology represents one of the major survivals of classical antiquity throughout later Western culture.Classical mythology has provided...

 mythological themes, such as Ulysses
Ulysses (poem)
"Ulysses" is a poem in blank verse by the Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson , written in 1833 and published in 1842 in Tennyson's well-received second volume of poetry. An oft-quoted poem, it is popularly used to illustrate the dramatic monologue form...

, although In Memoriam A.H.H.
In Memoriam A.H.H.
In Memoriam A.H.H. is a poem by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, completed in 1849. It is a requiem for the poet's Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage in Vienna in 1833...

 was written to commemorate his best friend Arthur Hallam
Arthur Hallam
Arthur Henry Hallam was an English poet, best known as the subject of a major work, In Memoriam A.H.H., by his best friend and fellow poet, Alfred Tennyson...

, a fellow poet and fellow student at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

, who was engaged to Tennyson's sister, but died from a brain haemorrhage before they could marry.
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Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, FRS (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) was Poet Laureate
Poet Laureate
A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government and is often expected to compose poems for state occasions and other government events...

 of the United Kingdom during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular poets in the English language.

Tennyson excelled at penning short lyrics, such as "In the Valley of Cauteretz", "Break, Break, Break
Break, Break, Break
Break, Break, Break is a 1914 American silent short film directed by Harry A. Pollard. A period drama written by Sydney Ayres, the film starred William Garwood and Louise Lester....

", "The Charge of the Light Brigade
The Charge of the Light Brigade (poem)
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" is an 1854 narrative poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson about the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War...

", "Tears, Idle Tears
Tears, Idle Tears
"Tears, Idle Tears" is a lyric poem written in 1847 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson , the Victorian-era English poet. Published as one of the "songs" in his The Princess , it is regarded for the quality of its lyrics. A Tennyson anthology describes the poem as "one of the most Virgilian of Tennyson's...

" and "Crossing the Bar
Crossing the Bar
"Crossing the Bar" is an 1889 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson that is traditionally the last poem in collections of his work. It is thought that Tennyson wrote it as his own elegy, as the poem has a tone of finality about it...

". Much of his verse was based on classical
Classical mythology
Classical mythology or Greco-Roman mythology is the cultural reception of myths from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Along with philosophy and political thought, mythology represents one of the major survivals of classical antiquity throughout later Western culture.Classical mythology has provided...

 mythological themes, such as Ulysses
Ulysses (poem)
"Ulysses" is a poem in blank verse by the Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson , written in 1833 and published in 1842 in Tennyson's well-received second volume of poetry. An oft-quoted poem, it is popularly used to illustrate the dramatic monologue form...

, although In Memoriam A.H.H.
In Memoriam A.H.H.
In Memoriam A.H.H. is a poem by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, completed in 1849. It is a requiem for the poet's Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage in Vienna in 1833...

 was written to commemorate his best friend Arthur Hallam
Arthur Hallam
Arthur Henry Hallam was an English poet, best known as the subject of a major work, In Memoriam A.H.H., by his best friend and fellow poet, Alfred Tennyson...

, a fellow poet and fellow student at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

, who was engaged to Tennyson's sister, but died from a brain haemorrhage before they could marry. Tennyson also wrote some notable blank verse
Blank verse
Blank verse is poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. It has been described as "probably the most common and influential form that English poetry has taken since the sixteenth century" and Paul Fussell has claimed that "about three-quarters of all English poetry is in blank verse."The first...

 including Idylls of the King
Idylls of the King
Idylls of the King, published between 1856 and 1885, is a cycle of twelve narrative poems by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson which retells the legend of King Arthur, his knights, his love for Guinevere and her tragic betrayal of him, and the rise and fall of Arthur's kingdom...

, "Ulysses," and "Tithonus
Tithonus (poem)
"Tithonus" is a poem by the Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson , originally written in 1833 as "Tithon" and completed in 1859. It first appeared in the February edition of the Cornhill Magazine in 1860. Faced with old age, Tithonus, weary of his immortality, yearns for death...

." During his career, Tennyson attempted drama, but his plays enjoyed little success.

A number of phrases from Tennyson's work have become commonplaces of the English language, including "Nature, red in tooth and claw", "'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all", "Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die", "My strength is as the strength of ten, / Because my heart is pure", "Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers", and "The old order changeth, yielding place to new". He is the ninth most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, first published by the Oxford University Press in 1941, is an 1100-page book listing short quotations that are common in English language and culture....

.

Early life


Tennyson was born in Somersby
Somersby, Lincolnshire
Somersby is a village in the parish of Greetham with Somersby in the Lincolnshire Wolds, northwest of Spilsby and eastnortheast of Horncastle. The parish covers about .- History :...

, Lincolnshire, a rector
Rector
The word rector has a number of different meanings; it is widely used to refer to an academic, religious or political administrator...

's son and fourth of 12 children. He derived from a middle-class line of Tennysons, but also had noble and royal ancestry.

His father, George Clayton Tennyson (1778–1831), was rector of Somersby (1807–1831), also rector of Benniworth
Benniworth
Benniworth is a village and civil parish in the East Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England. It lies 1 mile south-west of South Willingham.According to the 2001 census, the village had a population of 175....

 and Bag Enderby
Bag Enderby
Bag Enderby, a settlement in the civil parish of Greetham with Somersby, in the East Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England. The village lies just north of the A158 between Horncastle and Partney....

, and vicar of Grimsby
Grimsby
Grimsby is a seaport on the Humber Estuary in Lincolnshire, England. It has been the administrative centre of the unitary authority area of North East Lincolnshire since 1996...

 (1815). The rector was the elder of two sons, but was disinherited at an early age by his father, the landowner George Tennyson (1750–1835) (owner of Bayons Manor and Usselby Hall), in favour of his younger brother Charles, who later took the name Charles Tennyson d'Eyncourt
Charles Tennyson d'Eyncourt
Charles Tennyson d'Eyncourt , born Charles Tennyson, was a British politician, landowner and Member of Parliament for Stamford from 1831 to 1832 and for Lambeth from 1832 to 1852...

. Rev. George Clayton Tennyson raised a large family and "was a man of superior abilities and varied attainments, who tried his hand with fair success in architecture, painting, music, and poetry. He was comfortably well off for a country clergyman and his shrewd money management enabled the family to spend summers at Mablethorpe
Mablethorpe
Mablethorpe is a small seaside town in East Lindsey on the coast of Lincolnshire, England.-Geography:Several small caravan parks exist around Mablethorpe. The town is administered with Sutton-on-Sea and Trusthorpe, as the civil parish of Mablethorpe and Sutton...

 and Skegness
Skegness
Skegness is a seaside town and civil parish in the East Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England. Located on the Lincolnshire coast of the North Sea, east of the city of Lincoln it has a total resident population of 18,910....

, on the eastern coast of England." Alfred Tennyson's mother, Elizabeth Fytche (1781–1865), was the daughter of Stephen Fytche (1734–1799), vicar of St. James Church, Louth
St. James Church, Louth
St. James' Church, Louth is a parish church in the Church of England in Louth, Lincolnshire, England. It is notable for its tall spire.-History:...

 (1764) and rector of Withcall (1780), a small village between Horncastle and Louth
Louth, Lincolnshire
Louth is a market town and civil parish within the East Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England.-Geography:Known as the "capital of the Lincolnshire Wolds", it is situated where the ancient trackway Barton Street crosses the River Lud, and has a total resident population of 15,930.The Greenwich...

. Tennyson's father "carefully attended to the education and training of his children."

Tennyson and two of his elder brothers were writing poetry in their teens, and a collection of poems by all three were published locally when Alfred was only 17. One of those brothers, Charles Tennyson Turner
Charles Tennyson Turner
Charles Tennyson Turner was an English poet.Born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, he was an elder brother of Alfred Tennyson; his friendship and "heart union" with his greater brother is revealed in Poems by Two Brothers. He married Louisa Sellwood, the younger sister of Alfred's future wife; another...

 later married Louisa Sellwood, the younger sister of Alfred's future wife; the other was Frederick Tennyson
Frederick Tennyson
Frederick Tennyson was an English poet.-Life:Frederick Tennyson was the eldest son of George Clayton Tennyson, Rector of Somersby, Lincolnshire, and brother of Alfred Tennyson. He was educated at Eton College and St John's College, Cambridge...

. Another of Tennyson's brothers, Edward Tennyson, was institutionalised at a private asylum, where he died.

Education and first publication


Tennyson was first a student of Louth Grammar School for four years (1816–1820) and then attended Scaitcliffe School, Englefield Green and King Edward VI Grammar School, Louth
King Edward VI Grammar School, Louth
King Edward VI Grammar School is one of many Grammar schools in the United Kingdom.-Admissions:Students who wish to attend the school must take and pass a test called the Eleven Plus. It is situated in Louth, which is a small market town in Lincolnshire...

. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

 in 1827, where he joined a secret society called the Cambridge Apostles
Cambridge Apostles
The Cambridge Apostles, also known as the Cambridge Conversazione Society, is an intellectual secret society at the University of Cambridge founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson, a Cambridge student who went on to become the first Bishop of Gibraltar....

. At Cambridge Tennyson met Arthur Henry Hallam, who became his closest friend. His first publication was a collection of "his boyish rhymes and those of his elder brother Charles" entitled Poems by Two Brothers published in 1827.

In 1829 he was awarded the Chancellor's Gold Medal
Chancellor's Gold Medal
The Chancellor's Gold Medal is a prestigious annual award at Cambridge University for poetry, paralleling Oxford University's Newdigate prize. It was first presented by Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh during his time as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge...

 at Cambridge for one of his first pieces, "Timbuctoo
Timbuktu
Timbuktu , formerly also spelled Timbuctoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali...

". Reportedly, "it was thought to be no slight honour for a young man of twenty to win the chancellor's gold medal." He published his first solo collection of poems, Poems Chiefly Lyrical in 1830. "Claribel" and "Mariana
Mariana (poem)
Mariana is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson published in 1830. The poem follows a common theme in much of Tennyson's work—that of despondent isolation. The subject of Mariana is a woman who continuously laments her lack of connection with society. The isolation defines her existence, and her longing...

", which later took their place among Tennyson's most celebrated poems, were included in this volume. Although decried by some critics as overly sentimental, his verse soon proved popular and brought Tennyson to the attention of well-known writers of the day, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

.

Return to Lincolnshire and second publication



In the spring of 1831 Tennyson's father died, requiring him to leave Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

 before taking his degree. He returned to the rectory, where he was permitted to live for another six years, and shared responsibility for his widowed mother and the family. Arthur Hallam
Arthur Hallam
Arthur Henry Hallam was an English poet, best known as the subject of a major work, In Memoriam A.H.H., by his best friend and fellow poet, Alfred Tennyson...

 came to stay with his family during the summer and became engaged to Tennyson's sister, Emilia Tennyson.

In 1833, Tennyson published his second book of poetry, which included his well-known poem, The Lady of Shalott
The Lady of Shalott
"The Lady of Shalott" is a Victorian ballad by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson . Like his other early poems – "Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere" and "Galahad" – the poem recasts Arthurian subject matter loosely based on medieval sources.-Overview:Tennyson wrote two versions of the poem, one...

. The volume met heavy criticism, which so discouraged Tennyson that he did not publish again for 10 years, although he continued to write. That same year, Hallam died suddenly and unexpectedly after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage while on vacation in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

. Hallam's sudden and unexpected death in 1833 had a profound impact on Tennyson, and inspired several masterpieces, including "In the Valley of Cauteretz" and In Memoriam A.H.H.
In Memoriam A.H.H.
In Memoriam A.H.H. is a poem by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, completed in 1849. It is a requiem for the poet's Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage in Vienna in 1833...

, a long poem detailing the 'Way of the Soul'.

Tennyson and his family were allowed to stay in the rectory for some time, but later moved to High Beach
High Beach
High Beach also known as High Beech is a hamlet located within Epping Forest. Epping is located to the north east and Central London at Charing Cross lies approximately to the south west.-Description:...

, Essex in 1837. An unwise investment in an ecclesiastical wood-carving enterprise soon led to the loss of much of the family fortune. Tennyson then moved to London, and lived for a time at Chapel House, Twickenham
Chapel House, Twickenham
Chapel House, now No. 15, Montpelier Row, Twickenham, is a house in Greater London, England. The house has also been called Tennyson House and Holyrood House. It was occupied at one time by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and poet Walter de la Mare lived in the same row nearly a hundred years later...

.

Third publication


In 1842, while living modestly in London, Tennyson published two volumes of Poems, of which the first included works already published and the second was made up almost entirely of new poems. They met with immediate success. Poems from this collection, such as Locksley Hall
Locksley Hall
"Locksley Hall" is a poem written by Alfred Tennyson in 1835 and published in his 1842 volume of Poems. Though one of his masterworks, it is less well-known than his other literature...

, "Tithonus", and "Ulysses" have met enduring fame. The Princess: A Medley, a satire on women's education, which came out in 1847, was also popular for its lyrics. W. S. Gilbert
W. S. Gilbert
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was an English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for his fourteen comic operas produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, of which the most famous include H.M.S...

 later adapted and parodied the piece twice: in The Princess
The Princess (play)
The Princess is a blank verse farcical play, in five scenes with music, by W. S. Gilbert which adapts and parodies Alfred Lord Tennyson's humorous 1847 narrative poem, The Princess: A Medley. It was first produced at the Olympic Theatre in London on 8 January 1870.Gilbert called the piece "a...

 (1870) and in Princess Ida
Princess Ida
Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant is a comic opera with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It was their eighth operatic collaboration of fourteen. Princess Ida opened at the Savoy Theatre on January 5, 1884, for a run of 246 performances...

 (1884).

It was in 1850 that Tennyson reached the pinnacle of his career, finally publishing his masterpiece, In Memoriam A.H.H.
In Memoriam A.H.H.
In Memoriam A.H.H. is a poem by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, completed in 1849. It is a requiem for the poet's Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage in Vienna in 1833...

, dedicated to Hallam. Later the same year he was appointed Poet Laureate, succeeding William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads....

. In the same year (on 13 June), Tennyson married Emily Sellwood
Emily Tennyson
Emily Sarah Tennyson, Lady Tennyson was the wife of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and a creative talent in her own right....

, whom he had known since childhood, in the village of Shiplake
Shiplake
Shiplake is a village and civil parish about south of Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, England on the River Thames.-History:The Church of England parish church of St. Peter and St. Paul dates from at least the 13th century, but in 1869 the Gothic Revival architect G.E. Street rebuilt the chancel,...

. They had two sons, Hallam Tennyson (b. 11 August 1852) – named after his friend – and Lionel (b. 16 March 1854).

Poet Laureate



After Wordsworth's death in 1850, and Samuel Rogers
Samuel Rogers
Samuel Rogers was an English poet, during his lifetime one of the most celebrated, although his fame has long since been eclipsed by his Romantic colleagues and friends Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron...

' refusal, Tennyson was appointed to the position of Poet Laureate, which he held until his own death in 1892, by far the longest tenure of any laureate before or since. He fulfilled the requirements of this position by turning out appropriate but often uninspired verse, such as a poem of greeting to Alexandra of Denmark
Alexandra of Denmark
Alexandra of Denmark was the wife of Edward VII of the United Kingdom...

 when she arrived in Britain to marry the future King Edward VII
Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Edward VII was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910...

. In 1855, Tennyson produced one of his best known works, "The Charge of the Light Brigade
The Charge of the Light Brigade (poem)
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" is an 1854 narrative poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson about the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War...

", a dramatic tribute to the British cavalrymen involved in an ill-advised charge
Charge of the Light Brigade
The Charge of the Light Brigade was a charge of British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. The charge was the result of a miscommunication in such a way that the brigade attempted a much more difficult objective...

 on 25 October 1854, during the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

. Other esteemed works written in the post of Poet Laureate include Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington and Ode Sung at the Opening of the International Exhibition.
Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

 was an ardent admirer of Tennyson's work, and in 1884 created him Baron Tennyson, of Aldworth
Blackdown, Sussex
Blackdown, or Black Down, is the highest hill in the historic county of Sussex, at 280 metres , and is second only to Leith Hill in southeastern England....

 in the County of Sussex
Sussex
Sussex , from the Old English Sūþsēaxe , is an historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. It is bounded on the north by Surrey, east by Kent, south by the English Channel, and west by Hampshire, and is divided for local government into West...

 and of Freshwater in the Isle of Wight
Freshwater, Isle of Wight
Freshwater is a large village and civil parish at the western end of the Isle of Wight, England. Freshwater Bay is a small cove on the south coast of the Island which also gives its name to the nearby part of Freshwater....

. Tennyson initially declined a baronetcy in 1865 and 1868 (when tendered by Disraeli), finally accepting a peerage in 1883 at Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

's earnest solicitation. He took his seat in the House of Lords on 11 March 1884.

Tennyson also wrote a substantial quantity of non-official political verse, from the bellicose "Form, Riflemen, Form", on the French crisis of 1859, to "Steersman, be not precipitate in thine act/of steering", deploring Gladstone's Home Rule Bill.

Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

 wrote a play called Freshwater, showing Tennyson as host to his friends Julia Margaret Cameron
Julia Margaret Cameron
Julia Margaret Cameron was a British photographer. She became known for her portraits of celebrities of the time, and for photographs with Arthurian and other legendary themes....

 and G.F.Watts
George Frederic Watts
George Frederic Watts, OM was a popular English Victorian painter and sculptor associated with the Symbolist movement. Watts became famous in his lifetime for his allegorical works, such as Hope and Love and Life...

.

Tennyson was the first to be raised to a British Peerage
Peerage
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

 for his writing. A passionate man with some peculiarities of nature, he was never particularly comfortable as a peer, and it is widely held that he took the peerage in order to secure a future for his son Hallam.

Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

 made sound recordings of Tennyson reading his own poetry, late in his life. They include recordings of The Charge of the Light Brigade
The Charge of the Light Brigade (poem)
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" is an 1854 narrative poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson about the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War...

, and excerpts from "The splendour falls" (from The Princess), "Come into the garden" (from Maud
Maud and other poems
Maud and other poems was Alfred Lord Tennyson's first collection after becoming poet laureate in 1850, published in 1855. Among the "other poems" was "The Charge of the Light Brigade", which had already been published in the Examiner a few months before.-Narrative:The first part of the poem dwells...

), "Ask me no more", "Ode on the death of the Duke of Wellington", "Charge of the Heavy Brigade", and "Lancelot and Elaine"; the sound quality is as poor as wax cylinder recordings usually are.


Towards the end of his life Tennyson revealed that his "religious beliefs also defied convention, leaning towards agnosticism and pandeism
Pandeism
Pandeism or Pan-Deism , is a term describing beliefs incorporating or mixing logically reconcilable elements of pantheism and deism Pandeism or Pan-Deism (from and meaning "God" in the sense of deism), is a term describing beliefs incorporating or mixing logically reconcilable elements of...

": Famously, he wrote in In Memoriam: "There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds." [The context directly contradicts the apparent meaning of this quote.] In Maud, 1855, he wrote: "The churches have killed their Christ." In "Locksley Hall Sixty Years After," Tennyson wrote: "Christian love among the churches look'd the twin of heathen hate." In his play, Becket, he wrote: "We are self-uncertain creatures, and we may, Yea, even when we know not, mix our spites and private hates with our defence of Heaven." Tennyson recorded in his Diary (p. 127): "I believe in Pantheism
Pantheism
Pantheism is the view that the Universe and God are identical. Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator god. The word derives from the Greek meaning "all" and the Greek meaning "God". As such, Pantheism denotes the idea that "God" is best seen as a process of...

 of a sort." His son's biography confirms that Tennyson was not an orthodox Christian, noting that Tennyson praised Giordano Bruno
Giordano Bruno
Giordano Bruno , born Filippo Bruno, was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer. His cosmological theories went beyond the Copernican model in proposing that the Sun was essentially a star, and moreover, that the universe contained an infinite number of inhabited...

 and Spinoza on his deathbed, saying of Bruno, "His view of God is in some ways mine," in 1892.

Tennyson continued writing into his eighties. He died on 6 October 1892 at Aldworth, aged 83. He was buried at Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

. A memorial was erected in All Saints' Church, Freshwater
All Saints' Church, Freshwater
All Saints' Church, Freshwater is a parish church in the Church of England located in Freshwater, Isle of Wight.-History:The church is medieval. is one of the oldest churches on the Isle of Wight, and was listed in the Domesday survey of 1086. Mark Whatson is the pastor of All Saints, which is an...

. His last words were; "Oh that press will have me now!".

He was succeeded as 2nd Baron Tennyson by his son, Hallam
Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson
Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson, GCMG, PC , the second Governor-General of Australia, was born at Chapel House, Twickenham, in Surrey, England. Named after his father's late friend Arthur Hallam, he was the elder son of Alfred Tennyson, the most popular and prominent poet of late Victorian...

, who produced an authorised biography of his father in 1897, and was later the second Governor-General of Australia
Governor-General of Australia
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia at federal/national level of the Australian monarch . He or she exercises the supreme executive power of the Commonwealth...

.

The art of Tennyson's poetry



Tennyson used a wide range of subject matter, ranging from medieval legends to classical myths and from domestic situations to observations of nature, as source material for his poetry. The influence of John Keats
John Keats
John Keats was an English Romantic poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.Although his poems were not...

 and other Romantic poets published before and during his childhood is evident from the richness of his imagery and descriptive writing. He also handled rhythm masterfully. The insistent beat of Break, Break, Break emphasises the relentless sadness of the subject matter. Tennyson's use of the musical qualities of words to emphasise his rhythms and meanings is sensitive. The language of "I come from haunts of coot and hern" lilts and ripples like the brook in the poem and the last two lines of "Come down O maid from yonder mountain height" illustrate his telling combination of onomatopoeia, alliteration
Alliteration
In language, alliteration refers to the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of Three or more words or phrases. Alliteration has historically developed largely through poetry, in which it more narrowly refers to the repetition of a consonant in any syllables that, according to...

 and assonance
Assonance
Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within phrases or sentences, and together with alliteration and consonance serves as one of the building blocks of verse. For example, in the phrase "Do you like blue?", the is repeated within the sentence and is...

:
The moan of doves in immemorial elms
And murmuring of innumerable bees.

Tennyson was a craftsman who polished and revised his manuscripts extensively. Few poets have used such a variety of styles with such an exact understanding of metre
Meter (poetry)
In poetry, metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody...

; like many Victorian poets, he experimented in adapting the quantitative metres of Greek and Latin poetry to English. He reflects the Victorian period of his maturity in his feeling for order and his tendency towards moralising and self-indulgent melancholy. He also reflects a concern common among Victorian writers
Victorian literature
Victorian literature is the literature produced during the reign of Queen Victoria . It forms a link and transition between the writers of the romantic period and the very different literature of the 20th century....

 in being troubled by the conflict between religious faith and expanding scientific knowledge. Like many writers who write a great deal over a long time, he can be pompous or banal, but his personality rings throughout all his works – work that reflects a grand and special variability in its quality. Tennyson possessed the strongest poetic power; he put great length into many works, most famous of which are Maud and Idylls of the King, the latter one of literature's treatments of the legend of King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

 and The Knights of the Round Table.

Homoerotic imagery


The poem In Memoriam
In Memoriam A.H.H.
In Memoriam A.H.H. is a poem by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, completed in 1849. It is a requiem for the poet's Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage in Vienna in 1833...

 about a man’s love for another man includes sexual imagery; for example, the poet compares his sorrow to the sorrow of a loving widower who misses his late wife in bed.
Tears of the widower, when he sees
A late-lost form that sleep reveals,
And moves his doubtful arms, and feels
Her place is empty, fall like these;

This is not a unique example and material that can be interpreted as homoerotic
Homoeroticism
Homoeroticism refers to the erotic attraction between members of the same sex, either male–male or female–female , most especially as it is depicted or manifested in the visual arts and literature. It can also be found in performative forms; from theatre to the theatricality of uniformed movements...

 is widespread in Tennyson’s work. There has been speculation that Tennyson may have experienced homosexual feelings for his friend, though there is no question that he was strongly attracted to women. If Tennyson had bisexual feelings there is no firm evidence that he acted on them.

Partial list of works

  • From Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (1830):
    • The Dying Swan
    • The Kraken
    • Mariana
      Mariana (poem)
      Mariana is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson published in 1830. The poem follows a common theme in much of Tennyson's work—that of despondent isolation. The subject of Mariana is a woman who continuously laments her lack of connection with society. The isolation defines her existence, and her longing...

  • Lady Clara Vere de Vere
    Lady Clara Vere de Vere
    Lady Clara Vere de Vere is an English poem written by Alfred Lord Tennyson, part of the collection The Lady of Shalott, and Other Poems, published in 1842. The poem is about a lady in a family of aristocrats, and has numerous noble references, such as to earls or coats of arms...

     (1832)
  • From Poems (1833):
    • The Lotos-Eaters
      The Lotos-Eaters
      The Lotos-Eaters is a poem by Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, published in Tennyson's 1832 poetry collection. It was inspired by his trip to Spain with his close friend Arthur Hallam, where they visited the Pyrenees mountains...

    • The Lady of Shalott
      The Lady of Shalott
      "The Lady of Shalott" is a Victorian ballad by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson . Like his other early poems – "Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere" and "Galahad" – the poem recasts Arthurian subject matter loosely based on medieval sources.-Overview:Tennyson wrote two versions of the poem, one...

       (1832, 1842) – three versions painted by J.W. Waterhouse (1888, 1894 and 1916). Also put to music by Loreena McKennitt
      Loreena McKennitt
      Loreena Isabel Irene McKennitt, CM, OM, is a Canadian singer, composer, harpist, accordionist and pianist who writes, records and performs world music with Celtic and Middle Eastern themes. McKennitt is known for her refined, clear soprano vocals...

       on her album The Visit (1991).
    • The Palace of Art
      The Palace of Art
      The Palace of Art is a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. In the poem a man constructs a palace of art for his soul with any amount of art. The art of the palace and its gardens deals with sacred, secular and irreligious themes, the moral value appears irrelevant and only the artistic value matters. ...

  • St. Simeon Stylites
    St. Simeon Stylites (poem)
    St Simeon Stylites is a poem written by Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson in 1833 and published in his 1842 collection of poetry. The poem describes the actions of St Simeon Stylites, a Christian ascetic saint who goes counts his various physical acts in hopes that he has earned his place in heaven...

     (1833)
  • From Poems (1842):
    • Locksley Hall
      Locksley Hall
      "Locksley Hall" is a poem written by Alfred Tennyson in 1835 and published in his 1842 volume of Poems. Though one of his masterworks, it is less well-known than his other literature...

    • Tithonus
      Tithonus (poem)
      "Tithonus" is a poem by the Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson , originally written in 1833 as "Tithon" and completed in 1859. It first appeared in the February edition of the Cornhill Magazine in 1860. Faced with old age, Tithonus, weary of his immortality, yearns for death...

    • Vision of Sin
    • The Two Voices
      The Two Voices
      The Two Voices is a poem written by British Poet Laureate Alfred Tennyson between 1833 and 1834, published in his 1842 volume of Poems. Tennyson wrote the poem, titled "Thoughts of a Suicide" in manuscript, after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam in 1833...

       (1834)
    • "Ulysses
      Ulysses (poem)
      "Ulysses" is a poem in blank verse by the Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson , written in 1833 and published in 1842 in Tennyson's well-received second volume of poetry. An oft-quoted poem, it is popularly used to illustrate the dramatic monologue form...

      " (1833)
  • From The Princess; A Medley (1847)
    • "The Princess
      The Princess (poem)
      The Princess is a serio-comic blank verse narrative poem, written by Alfred Tennyson, published in 1847. Tennyson was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1850 to 1892 and remains one of the most popular English poets....

      "
    • Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal
      Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal
      "Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal" is a poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It was first published in 1847, in The Princess: A Medley.The poem has been set to music several times, including settings by Benjamin Britten, Roger Quilter, Ned Rorem, and Mychael Danna.It appeared as a song in the 2004...

       – it later appeared as a song in the film Vanity Fair
      Vanity Fair (2004 film)
      Vanity Fair is a 2004 British-American costume drama film directed by Mira Nair and adapted from William Makepeace Thackeray's novel of the same name...

      , with musical arrangement by Mychael Danna
      Mychael Danna
      Mychael Danna is a Canadian film composer.-Life and career:Mychael Danna is the brother of fellow composer Jeff Danna. He has been scoring films since his 1987 feature debut for Atom Egoyan's Family Viewing, a score which earned Danna the first of his thirteen Genie Award nominations. He has won...

    • "Tears, Idle Tears
      Tears, Idle Tears
      "Tears, Idle Tears" is a lyric poem written in 1847 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson , the Victorian-era English poet. Published as one of the "songs" in his The Princess , it is regarded for the quality of its lyrics. A Tennyson anthology describes the poem as "one of the most Virgilian of Tennyson's...

      "
  • In Memoriam A.H.H.
    In Memoriam A.H.H.
    In Memoriam A.H.H. is a poem by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, completed in 1849. It is a requiem for the poet's Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage in Vienna in 1833...

     (1849)
  • Ring Out, Wild Bells
    Ring Out, Wild Bells
    "Ring Out, Wild Bells" is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Published in 1850, the year he was appointed Poet Laureate, it forms part of In Memoriam, Tennyson's elegy to Arthur Henry Hallam, his sister's fiancé who died at the age of twenty-two....

     (1850)

  • The Eagle
    The Eagle (poem)
    "The Eagle" is a short poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson and was first published in 1851, when it was added to the seventh edition of Tennyson’s Poems, which had itself been published first in 1842. The first stanza of this consciously styled "fragment" poem personifies an eagle, describing its claws as...

     (1851)
  • The Sister's Shame
  • From Maud; A Monodrama (1855/1856)
    • Maud
    • The Charge of the Light Brigade
      The Charge of the Light Brigade (poem)
      "The Charge of the Light Brigade" is an 1854 narrative poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson about the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War...

       (1854) – an early recording exists of Tennyson reading this.
  • From Enoch Arden and Other Poems (1862/1864)
    • Enoch Arden
      Enoch Arden
      "Enoch Arden" is a narrative poem published in 1864 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, during his tenure as England's Poet Laureate. The story on which it was based was provided to Tennyson by Thomas Woolner....

    • The Brook – contains the line "For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever" which inspired the naming of a men's club
      The Brook
      The Brook is an exclusive private gentlemen's club located at 111 East 54th Street in Manhattan .It was founded in 1903 by a group of prominent men who belonged to other New York City private clubs, such as the Knickerbocker Club, the Union Club of the City of New York, and the Metropolitan Club...

       in New York City.
  • Flower in the crannied wall
    Flower in the crannied wall
    "Flower in the crannied wall" is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.Flower in the crannied wall,I pluck you out of the crannies,I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,Little flower -but if I could understandWhat you are, root and all, and all in all,...

     (1869)
  • The Window
    The Window (song cycle)
    The Window; or, The Songs of the Wrens is a song cycle by Arthur Sullivan with words by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Written in 1867–70, it was eventually published in 1871...

     – Song cycle with Arthur Sullivan
    Arthur Sullivan
    Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan MVO was an English composer of Irish and Italian ancestry. He is best known for his series of 14 operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including such enduring works as H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado...

    . (1871)
  • Harold (1876) – began a revival of interest in King Harold
  • Idylls of the King
    Idylls of the King
    Idylls of the King, published between 1856 and 1885, is a cycle of twelve narrative poems by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson which retells the legend of King Arthur, his knights, his love for Guinevere and her tragic betrayal of him, and the rise and fall of Arthur's kingdom...

     (composed 1833–1874)
  • Locksley Hall Sixty Years After (1886)
  • Crossing the Bar
    Crossing the Bar
    "Crossing the Bar" is an 1889 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson that is traditionally the last poem in collections of his work. It is thought that Tennyson wrote it as his own elegy, as the poem has a tone of finality about it...

     (1889)
  • The Foresters
    The Foresters
    The Foresters or, Robin Hood and Maid Marian is a play written by Alfred Tennyson and first produced in New York in 1892. A set of incidental music in nine movements was composed for the play by Arthur Sullivan....

     – a play with incidental music
    Incidental music
    Incidental music is music in a play, television program, radio program, video game, film or some other form not primarily musical. The term is less frequently applied to film music, with such music being referred to instead as the "film score" or "soundtrack"....

     by Arthur Sullivan
    Arthur Sullivan
    Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan MVO was an English composer of Irish and Italian ancestry. He is best known for his series of 14 operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including such enduring works as H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado...

     (1891)
  • Kapiolani
    Chiefess Kapiolani
    High Chiefess Kapiolani was an important member of the Hawaiian nobility at the time of the founding of the Kingdom of Hawaii and the arrival of Christian missionaries...

     (published after his death by Hallam Tennyson)

External links