Biography of Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892)
Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), English poet often regarded as the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry. Tennyson succeeded Wordsworth as Poet Laureate in 1850.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born on August 5, 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire. His father, George Clayton Tennyson, a clergyman and rector, suffered from depression and was notoriously absentminded. Alfred began to write poetry at an early age in the style of Lord Byron. After spending four unhappy years in school he was tutored at home. Tennyson then studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he joined the literary club ‘The Apostles’ and met Arthur Hallam, who became his closest friend. Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical, in 1830, which included the popular “Mariana”.
His next book, Poems (1833), received unfavorable reviews, and Tennyson ceased to publish for nearly ten years. Hallam died suddenly on the same year in Vienna. It was a heavy blow to Tennyson. He began to write “In Memoriam”, an elegy for his lost friend – the work took seventeen years. “The Lady of Shalott”, “The Lotus-eaters” “Morte d’Arthur” and “Ulysses” appeared in 1842 in the two-volume Poems and established his reputation as a writer.
After marrying Emily Sellwood, whom he had already met in 1836, the couple settled in Farringford, a house in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight in 1853. From there the family moved in 1869 to Aldworth, Surrey. During these later years he produced some of his best poems.
Among Tennyson’s major poetic achievements is the elegy mourning the death of his friend Arthur Hallam, “In Memoriam” (1850). This poems is commonly referred to by its first line:
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky.
The “Bells” poem is read out, translated into the Swedish “Ring, klocka, ring”, every new year’s night in Stockholm, Sweden to celebrate the dying of the old year and the birth of the new year.
The patriotic poem “Charge of the Light Brigade”, published in Maud (1855), is one of Tennyson’s best known works, although at first “Maud” was found obscure or morbid by critics ranging from George Eliot to Gladstone. Enoch Arden (1864) was based on a true story of a sailor thought drowned at sea who returned home after several years to find that his wife had remarried. Idylls Of The King (1859-1885) dealt with the Arthurian theme.
In the 1870s Tennyson wrote several plays, among them the poetic dramas Queen Mary (1875) and Harold (1876). In 1884 he was created a baron.
Tennyson died at Aldwort on October 6, 1892 and was buried in the Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.