Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1809-1892

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Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1809-1892

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was the most eminent of the Victorian poets, his poems found their way into almost every of Victorian home.

One of twelve children of a country minister, Tennyson was born in the quiet village of Somersby in Lincolnshire. His father had an excellent library where the young Tennyson began his study of English classics. He also began writing poetry at a very early age producing a six-thousand-line epic by the age of twelve; at eighteen he published an anonymous collection of poetry with two of his brothers. Tennyson learned classical and modern languages from his gifted father in preparation for the university. His father also made the young Tennyson memorize and recite all of the odes of the Roman poet Horace before allowing him to leave for Cambridge University.

At Cambridge Tennyson joined a circle of young intellectuals whose center was the brilliant student Arthur Henry Hallam. Hallam and Tennyson developed a close friendship, as Hallam encouraged Tennyson's interest in poetry and became engaged to Tennyson's sister. While still at the university Tennyson made a promising debut as a young poet with the publication Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (1830).

His fathers fatal illness forced Tennyson to leave Cambridge without finishing his degree. His next publication, Poems, met with stinging criticism early in 1833. And in that same grim year his friend Hallam died unexpectedly in Vienna at the age of twenty-three.

Hallam's death threw Tennyson into a deep and long depression. Nearly a decade passed before he published any poetry, and some of his friends believed that grief had caused him to abandon poetry forever. In fact, he was working out his grief by perfecting his craft during what he later called his 'ten years' silence."

In1842 he by published a new- work that soon established him as the leading poet of his time. And in 1850, after years of intermittent labor, he published his great elegy to Hallam In Memoriam A. H. H. , recording the shattering effect on his spirit of Hallam's death seventeen years before. He also married in that year and was named Wordsworth's successor as poet laureate.

Tennyson continued to write throughout his long and productive life, experimenting with a great variety of poetic forms. Among his most popular works is The Idylls of the King, a series of poems celebrating the legend of King Arthur. Tennyson worked on the dozen of poems that make up The Idylls over a period that spanned fifty years, beginning the work shortly after Hallam’s death and publishing the last poem in the series in 1885. Toward the end of his career, Tennyson was knighted by Queen Victoria; this honor, had never before given to a writer. To his contemporaries Tennyson was the great consoling voice of their age, a prophet who managed through suffering to reconci1e the upheavals of the nineteenth century with an abiding belief in God and in human worth. Modern readers turn to Tennyson's poetry less for its reassurances than for its heartbreaking beauty, its musicality, and its haunting sense of the transitory nature of life.

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