Whether a person likes or dislikes the works of Lord Alfred Tennyson, most would agree that he was one of the most influential writers of his time period. Tennyson grew up in a wealthy family never wanting for anything. English author often regarded as the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry. Tennyson succeeded Wordsworth as Poet Laureate in 1850; he was appointed by Queen Victoria and served 42 years. Tennyson’s works were melancholic, and reflected the moral and intellectual values of his time, which made them especially vulnerable for later critic.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born 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. The undergraduate society discussed contemporary social, religious, scientific, and literary issues.
Encouraged by ‘The Apostles’, Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical, in 1830, which included the popular ‘Mariana’. He travelled with Hallam on the Continent. By 1830, Hallam had become engaged to Tennyson’s sister Emily. After his father’s death in 1831 Tennyson returned to Somersby without a degree. 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 ‘Im Memorian’ for his lost friend – the work took seventeen years.
A revised volume of Poems, which included the ‘The Lady of Shalott’ and ‘The Lotus-eaters’. ‘Morte d’Arthur’ and ‘Ulysses’ appeared in 1842 in the two-volume POEMS, and established his reputation as a writer. In ‘Ulysses Tennyson portrayed the Greek after his travels, longing past days: “How dull it is to pause, to make an end, / To rust unburnished, not to shine in use! ” After marrying Emily Sellwood, whom he had already met in 1836, the couple settled in Farringford, a house in Freshwater on the Isle of Wright in 1853. From there the family moved in 1869 to Aldworth, Surrey. Tennyson’s life was then uneventful.
In London he was a regular guest of the literary and artistic salon of Mrs Prinsep at Little Holland House. 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). The personal sorrow led the poet to explore his thoughts on faith, immortality, and the meaning of loss: “O life as futile, then, as frail! / O for thy voice to soothe and bless! / What hope of answer, or redress? / Behind the veil, behind the veil. Among its other passages is a symbolic voyage ending in a vision of Hallam as the poet’s muse.
Some critics have seen in the work ideas, that anticipated Darwin’s theory of natural selection. “Who trusted God was love indeed / And love Creation’s final law – / Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw / With ravine, shriek’d against his creed – “, the poet wrote. He was born in the same year as Darwin, but his view about natural history, however, was based on catastrophe theory, not evolution. The patriotic poem ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, published in MAUD (1855), is one of Tennyson’s est known works, although first Maud was found obscure or morbid by critics ranging from George Eliot to Gladstone.
Later the poem about the Light Brigade inspired Michael Curtiz’s film from 1936, starring Errol Flynn. Historically the fight during the Crimean war brough to light the incompetent organization of the English army. However, the stupid mistake described in the poem honored the soldier’s courage and heroic action. 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. In the poem Enoch Arden, Philip Ray and Annie Lee grow up together.
Enoch wins her hand. He sails abroad and is shipwrecked for 10 years on a deserted island. Meanwhile Annie has been reduced to poverty. Philip asks her to marry him. Enoch returns and witnesses their happiness, but hides that he is alive and sacrifices his happiness for theirs. An Enoch Arden has come to mean a person who truly loves someone better than himself. The poem ends banally: “So past the strong heoic soul away. / And when they buried him, the little port / Had seldom seen a costlier funeral. ” IDYLLS OF THE KING (1859-1885) dealt with the
Arthurian theme, and THE ANCIENT SAGE (1885) and AKBAR’S DREAM (1892) testified his faith in the redemption offered by love. Despite his pessimism about the human condition, the poet believed in God. In the 1870s Tennyson wrote several plays, among them 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. Soon he became the favorite target of attacks of many English and American poets who saw him as a representative of narrow patriotism and sentimentality.
Later critics have praised again Tennyson. T. S. Eliot has called him ‘the great master of metric as well as of melancholia’ and that he possessed the finest ear of any English poet since Milton. 1 The one thing that most people seemed to agree on was the fact that Tennyson didnt look as though they thought he should. Frances Ann Kemble was disappointed in the way Tennyson looked and in spite of his eyes, which were lovely; his head and face, as beautiful as they were , were too big for beauty in such a young man.
Thomas Carlyle felt that Tennyson was one of the finest looking men in the world. A great shock of rough dusty-dark hair; bright-laughing hazel eyes; massive aquiline face, most massive yet most delicate, of sallow brown complexion, almost Indian looking; clothes cynically loose, free-and-easy,-smokes infinite tobacco. His voice is a musical metallic, -fit for loud laughter and piercing wail, and all that may lie between; speech and speculation free and plenteous: I do not meet, in these late decades, such company over a pipe! -We shall see what he will grow to.
Carlyle stated about Tennysons look and demeanor. 3 This is what Lewis Carroll had to say about Tennyson when he was elcomed at the door. After I had waited some little time the door opened, and a strange shaggy-looking man entered: his hair, moustache and beard looked wild and neglected: these very much hid the character of the face. He was dressed in a loosely fitting morning coat, common gray flannel waist-coat and trousers, and a carelessly tied back silk neckerchief.
His hair is black: I think the eyes too; they are keen and restless–nose aquiline–forehead high and broad–both face and head are fine and manly. His manner was kind and friendly from the first: there is a dry lurking humour in his style of talking. Nathaniel Hawthorne had this to say about Tennysons looks, Tennyson is the most picturesque figure, without affection, that I ever saw; of middle size, rather slouching, dressed entirely in black, and with nothing white about him except the collar of his shirt, which, methought, might have been whiter the day before.
He had on a black wide-awake-hat, with round crown and wide, irregular brim, beneath which came his long black hair, looking terribly tangled; he had a long pointed beard, too, a little browner than the hair, and not so abundant as to encumber any of the expression of his face. His frock coat was buttoned up across the breast, though the afternoon was warm. His face was very dark, and not exactly a smooth face, but worn, and expressing great sensitiveness, though not at that moment the pain and sorrow that is seen in his bust.
His eyes were black; but I know little of them, as they did not rest on me. 5 Tennyson had many great works that people still remember but his two greatest works were, In Memoriam and Idylls of the King. The poem In Memoriam was written about Tennysons best friend Arthur Henry Hallam. Charlotte Bronte thought that the poem was nice but the fact that it was written bout a friend made the use of rhyme better than if it had been for a family member. 6 Vida D. Scudder had this to say about In Memoriam, In Memoriam is a poem of triumph, but of triumph overcast.
The pall of gloom that broods heavily above the soulat the beginning is indeed soon broken by far, sad regions of light. Towards the end of the sun itself streams forth, illumining the sorrow to beauty; but it is not an english sunlight, white, not golden, still filtered through a veil of pensive mists. It is difficult to concieve a poem wilder and more subtle in rendering the ossible sufferings of a soul shaken free from all convention by the shock and pain.
Problems of the mind, the conduct, and the heart blend and break, one against the other, with the pathetic inconsistency. 7 As for Tennysons other great work, Idylls of the King, people seemed to give it a much nicer criticism. Prince Albert felt that the poems, which he thourghly enjoyed, rekindle the feeling with which the legends of King Arthur must have inspired the chivalry of old, whilst the graceful form in which they are presented blends those feelings with the softer tone of our present age.
Tennysons other popular works include: The Princess, Maud and Drama . These are just a few of his poems Tennyson wrote hundreds in his career. It seems that the critics of Tennysons work, either loves it or hates it there is rarely a middle ground. Most critics seems to enjoy Idylls of the King and give it much better reviews than those of In Memoriam which people dont seem to like as much. Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-92) was considered England’s greatest poet in the last half of the 19th century. People from every walk of life understood and loved his work.