Today, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poetry is widely known and appreciated, though this was not always the case. In his early years of writing his poems were criticized for content and style of writing. This strongly impacted Tennyson and caused him once to cease writing for nine years. Tennyson’s childhood influenced his writing and this is often seen in many of his poems. He was regarded as the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry. He become Poet Laureate in 1850 and was appointed by Queen Victoria and served 42 years. Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poetry was greatly influenced by his early childhood, best friend and religious beliefs; while his rhyme scheme was traditional; his morbid style was not popular for his time. This melancholy style of writing and use of topics of moral and intellectual beliefs of his time were especially vulnerable for later critic.
Tennyson’s life at home wasn’t always a happy one. His father, George, began tutoring Tennyson after four unhappy years of schooling. George tutored his sons in classical and modern languages. However, George, along with some of Tennyson’s brothers, suffered from bouts of epilepsy. One of Tennyson’s brother’s had violent quarrels with his father, one was confined to an insane asylum later in life and yet another became an opium addict. George often suffered from depression and his drinking led to him becoming violent, abusive and paranoid. “Tennyson’s grandfather appointed his uncle his heir and his father was placed in the ministry.” (The Victorian Web) This great difference in money between his own family and his aunt and uncle’s led Tennyson to worry about money the length of his life. In 1827 Tennyson left his home in hope of a better life. He followed two of his older brothers to Trinity College, Cambridge.
The Tennyson brothers published “Poems by Two Brothers” in 1827 which won each of them university prizes for poetry and made the quite popular at Cambridge. Shortly after an undergraduate club, The Apostles, invited Tennyson to join. These people remained his friends throughout his life, but one member formed an unparalleled friendship with Tennyson. Arthur Henry Hallam, another brilliant Victorian, had the most influence on Tennyson. Hallam later became engaged to Emily Tennyson, which only brought the two friends closer together. Hallam died in 1833 from illness, this shocked Tennyson and this grief led to some of Tennyson’s best poetry. In Memoriam and “The Passing of Arthur are some of the poems Hallam is remembered in. This experience led Tennyson 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.” (Netpoets) Within other passages of the poem is a symbolic voyage ending in a ‘vision of Hallam as the poet’s muse.’ (Online Literature) Tennyson continued to look to Hallam for inspiration even after the friend had died.
Throughout Tennyson’s life he fell in love with many women. One such woman was Emily Sellwood. Tennyson had met Sellwood in 1836 at her sister’s wedding and later that year became engaged to her. Tennyson soon published POEMS, which was met with bad reviews, which called his work “affected” and “obscure.” (Poets) Tennyson was hurt by the harsh reviews and discontinued writing for nine years. Once he lost his inheritance on a bad investment in 1840 Sellwood’s family called off the engagement. Later Tennyson’s POEMS in two volumes became a popular success and gained him much respect. With the publication of In Memoriam he became known as one of Britain’s most popular poets. He was selected Poet Laureate in succession to Wordsworth. (Poets) Once success had found Tennyson he married Sellwood. They had two sons, Hallam and Lionel. They remained married throughout the rest of Tennyson’s life.
Tennyson’s style of writing was not widely accepted when he began writing. Most of his early poetry was said to be morbid and melancholy. This type of reaction discouraged Tennyson. Tennyson wasn’t widely praised until the release of his POEMS in two volumes. Tennyson often wrote of nature, death and regret. “Tears, Idle Tears” is an example of this. “In looking on the happy autumn-fields, And thinking of the days that are no more.” (Poets) Tennyson is in a beautiful, happy place, and yet he is only regretting not being in the past. Death is shown in “The Kraken” which is easily shown in the last line; “In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.” There are many other examples for Tennyson’s less than lively poetry. Tennyson uses luring words in his poems. If a person didn’t know anything about poetry they might think that they were reading a love poem. He uses words that almost calm the reader, although they might be reading about death, or regret. His use of language is very appealing.
Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poetry was greatly influenced by his environment. His father was a clergyman whom later in life experienced epilepsy and would fall into bouts of drinking and depression. His very close friend and brother-in-law Hallam died suddenly, leaving Tennyson stung and deeply saddened. His wife Emily Sellwood’s family cancelled their wedding when he lost his money, only to rearrange it when he became a well-known writer. In some part of each of Tennyson’s poems you will find an example of his life, or his feelings about his life and happenings. “T.S. Eliot has called him ‘the great master of metric as well as of melancholia’ and that that he possessed the finest ear of any English poet since Milton.” (Online Literature) Despite Tennyson’s family history with health problems he lived a long life and died at the 83 on October 6, 1892.
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