Today, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poetry is widely known and appreciated. However, it wasn’t always like this. In his early years of writing, his poems were criticized for the content and style of writing. This strongly influenced 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. It is known that Alfred Tennyson produced a play when he was 14 years old. At the age of 12, Tennyson wrote a 6000 line epic in the manner of Sir Walter Scott. Without a doubt, “Lord Byron” was one of the best youthful models of the time. To add more, the most renowned poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland wrote a play called “The Devil and the Lady” when he was only 14 years old.
He was considered the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry. He became 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. At the same time, his rhyme scheme was traditional, while his morbid style was not popular back then. This melancholy style of writing and the use of topics of moral and intellectual beliefs of Tennyson’s time were especially vulnerable for the 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 brothers had violent quarrels with his father, while the other was confined to an insane asylum later in life, and yet another became an opium addict. George often suffered from depression. What is more, his drinking led to him becoming violent, abusive, and paranoid. “Tennyson’s grandfather chose his uncle as his heir, while his father was placed in the ministry.” (The Victorian Web) This great difference in the financial situation between his family and his uncle made Tennyson worry about money for quite a long period of time. In 1827, Tennyson left his home in the hope for a better life. He followed two of his older brothers and went to Trinity College, Cambridge.
The Tennyson brothers published “Poems by Two Brothers” in 1827. This work brought each of them university prizes for poetry and made them 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 made an unparalleled friendship with Tennyson. Arthur Henry Hallam, another brilliant Victorian, had the most influence on Tennyson. Hallam later got 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 exploring 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, the readers see 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 his friend’s death.
Throughout Tennyson’s life, he fell in love with many women. One such woman was Emily Sellwood. Tennyson met Sellwood in 1836 at her sister’s wedding. Later that year, they got engaged. Tennyson soon published “POEMS” that received negative reviews. In particular, the readers called his work “affected” and “obscure.” (Poets) Tennyson was hurt by the harsh reviews and gave up writing for nine years. Once he lost his inheritance due to a bad investment in 1840, Sellwood family called off the engagement. Later Tennyson’s “POEMS” in two volumes became a real 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 became part of Tennyson’s life, he finally 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 at the beginning of his career. 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 about nature, death, and regret. “Tears, Idle Tears” is an example of this. “In looking at 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 the roaring, he shall rise and on the surface die.” There are many other examples of 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, even though they might be reading about death or regret. His use of language is very appealing.
Undoubtedly, Alfred Tennyson is the embodiment of talent and dedication in the world of literature. Despite the fact that he is known for his poetry works, Tennyson had the immense talent to produce drama. The most famous drama works written by this craftsman in verse include “Tithonus” and “Idylls of the King.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poetry was greatly influenced by his environment. His father was a clergyman that experienced epilepsy and would fall into bouts of drinking and depression later in life. His close friend and brother-in-law Hallam died suddenly, leaving Tennyson stung and deeply saddened. The family of his wife, Emily Sellwood, canceled 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 a real story from his life or his feelings about what happened to him personally. “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.” (Online Literature)
Many historians point to the fact that Queen Victoria loved Tennyson’s works. The first time they met, she noted in her diary that Alfred was pretty “oddly dressed” and “peculiar looking.” Nonetheless, during their second meeting, Queen Victoria told Alfred Tennyson that his work “In Memoriam A.H.H.” had become such a relief upon the death of Prince Albert.
Despite Tennyson’s family history and all the health problems, he lived a long life and died at the age of 83, on October 6, 1892. The famous poet of the time of Queen Victoria’s reign suffered from gout. The disease symptoms were getting worse in late summer. Alfred Lord Tennyson is buried in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner.