Alfred Tennyson was born on August 6, 1809 at Somersby
, Lincolnshire, to George and Elizabeth Tennyson. Alfred had 11 other siblings, and although members of his family were well off financially, Alfred’s grandfather altered inheritance arrangements in favor of his younger son, which left Alfred and his family almost destitute
. Alfred also had a fear of mental illness
almost all of his life because a couple of people in his family developed epilepsy
. Several men in his family were also heavy drinkers. Alfred’s brother Edward was placed in a mental institution, and Alfred would also be placed in care of doctors
In 1827 Alfred was able to escape his troubled homelife by going to Trinity College in Cambridge. There, he and two of his older brothers did very well, and all of them became well known at the school for their great poetic abilities. In 1829 Alfred joined a club called The Apostles, whose members included Arthur Henry Hallam, Edward Lushington and James Spedding. Alfred became especially close to Arthur Hallam, a brilliant and promising poet. Alfred composed the majority of his poetry in his head, since he suffered from extreme short-sightedness and could not see well without a monocle. As an undergraduate Alfred rarely wrote down his poetry, until friends such as Hallam prodded him to do so. (“The Lotus-Eaters” was written after Hallam urged Alfred to let him transcribe it.) Hallam eventually became engaged to Alfred’s sister Emily, but in 1833 he died from a sudden illness, and his death had a profound impact on Alfred. It inspired several great poems of his, including “In Memoriam,” “The Passing of Arthur,” and “Ulysses.”
Alfred was extremely sensitive to criticism, and when he received a mixed reception for “Poems” in 1832, it greatly upset him. The cruelty of the critics at this time would keep him from publishing for nine years. In the late 1830s Alfred became more worried about his mental health and went to a sanitarium run by Dr. Matthew Allen. Alfred ended up investing money into a scheme of Dr. Allen, but it went bankrupt. This led to Alfred experiencing an emotional breakdown. In 1842, however, the success of his revised “Poems” made Alfred much more popular in the literary realm, and he soon began to receive a yearly pension which aided his financial troubles. “In Memoriam” and “The Princess,” were his most popular pieces, and in 1850 he was made Poet Laureate. Alfred was soon considered the most popular poet of the Victorian era.
Alfred continued to write during his 40s and in 1853 Prince Albert dropped in to visit him and express his admiration of Alfred’s work. Alfred would later dedicate “The Idylls of the King” to his memory. Queen Victoria later summoned him to court and gave him the title of Lord.
Despite his worries, Alfred lived to be 83, and died on October 6, 1892. He was buried in the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.
Other poetry by Alfred Lord Tennyson includes:
“The Charge of the Light Brigade”
"The Lady of Shalott"
"The Two Voices"
"The Coming of Arthur"
"The Last Tournament"
"Balin and Balan"
"Merlin and the Gleam"
"Crossing the Bar"
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