Alfred Lord Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson was born August 6, 1809, in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England.  Despite a rocky childhood, Tennyson would one day be considered one of the most beloved of all Victorian poets.  He was one of eleven children, the son of an embittered clergyman, who drank heavily and suffered from mental illness.  Many of Tennyson’s siblings also suffered breakdowns, and several developed addictions to alcohol or opium.  As a result, in 1827, Tennyson found attending school at Trinity College, Cambridge, a welcome change of scenery, although he had already been writing long before becoming a student there. The same year, he and his brothers Charles and Frederick published Poems by Two Brothers, though Tennyson wrote the better part of the work.  Not the most successful of Tennyson’s career, the work did acquire some attention and new friends from the Apostles, a secret literary society at the school, chiefly Arthur Henry Hallam.  The two embarked on a European journey in 1930, during which time Tennyson was greatly influenced by his time in the Pyrenees.  The scenic imagery would give the poet creative fodder for years to come.  Later that year, the poet published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical.

In 1931, Tennyson left school due to his father’s death.  It was a difficult period for the family, as they no longer had a steady income, and Tennyson’s grandfather’s only offer of assistance to the poet was to find him a suitable clergy job if he were to be ordained.  Instead, Tennyson stayed true to his desires to be a poet, publishing a collection called Poems in 1932, including some work from his time in the Pyrenees: "Oenone," "The Lotos-Eaters," and "Mariana in the South."  Although these are lauded today as some of his better work, critics at the time were merciless, and it was several years that Tennyson wrote privately, without publishing anything.  In 1933, his friend Hallam died, a serious blow to the poet. However, the tragic event inspired one of Tennyson’s most successful works, and the one most praised in Victorian literature, In Memoriam (1850).  It was the success of this work that largely led to the poet replacing Wordsworth as Poet Laureate in 1950.  It was also this year that he married his wife, Emily Sellwood.  Tennyson’s commercial success afforded him the ability to purchase a home where he continued writing in his later years.  In 1883, William Gladstone offered the poet a peerage, which he accepted, making him Alfred Lord Tennyson.  He died October 6, 1892, and was buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.