This Day In Literary History
On August 6th, 1809, the legendary English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England. Although his father, George Tennyson, was a rector, (who married a vicar's daughter) the Tennyson family were descendants of King Edward II.
George Tennyson's skill at money management made him far more affluent than the typical country clergyman, and the family was thus able to spend summers vacationing at Mablethorpe and Skegness on the East coast of England.
Alfred Lord Tennyson was the fourth of twelve children. When he and his older brothers Charles and Frederick were teenagers, they began writing poetry. By the time he was 17, they had published locally a collection of their poems. a
Charles Tennyson would later marry the younger sister of Alfred's wife. Another one of Alfred's brothers, Edward Tennyson, would end up institutionalized at a private asylum, where he died.
First educated at Louth Grammar School, Tennyson entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1827, where he would join an intellectual secret society called the Cambridge Apostles. While studying at Cambridge, he met poet Arthur Henry Hallam, who became his best friend.
The same year, his first commercially published book, Poems by Two Brothers, came out. It also contained works by his older brother, Charles. In 1829, Alfred Lord Tennyson was awarded the Chancellor's Gold Medal at Cambridge for his poem Timbuctoo.
A year later, his first solo poetry collection, Poems Chiefly Lyrical, was published. It contained two of Tennyson's most celebrated poems, Claribel and Mariana.
Although some critics derided it for being too sentimental, Tennyson's verse proved to be very popular with readers. It also caught the attention of fellow writers, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
When Tennyson's father died in the spring of 1831, he had to leave Cambridge before obtaining his degree. He lived at the rectory and took responsibility for his widowed mother and his siblings.
His friend Arthur Henry Hallam came to live with the Tennyson family, and later became engaged to Alfred's sister, Emilia. In 1833, Tennyson published his second book of poetry, simply called Poems.
This collection, which included his famous poem, The Lady of Shalott, met with such critical scorn that Tennyson wouldn't publish another for ten years, though he continued to write.
That same year, Arthur Henry Hallam died suddenly of a stroke while on vacation in Vienna. His death had a profound effect on Tennyson, who composed a poem in tribute to his friend called In Memoriam A.H.H.
Considered one of Tennyson's masterpieces, it included the famous lines "'Tis better to have loved and lost / Then never to have loved at all." The poem became a favorite of Queen Victoria, who found solace in it after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861. In 1862, she requested a meeting with Tennyson.
In 1842, while living in London, Alfred Lord Tennyson published two more volumes of his Poems series of poetry collections. Unlike the first volume, they met with immediate success. They featured Tennyson classics such as Locksley Hall, Tithonus, and Ulysses.
His writing career back on track, he continued to write and publish poetry collections. By 1850, Tennyson reached the pinnacle of his career. That year, he finally published his masterpiece In Memoriam A.H.H..
On top of that, he was appointed Poet Laureate following the death of William Wordsworth. Also in 1850, at the age of 41, Alfred Lord Tennyson married his childhood sweetheart Emily Sellwood, who bore him two sons, Hallam and Lionel.
In 1855, Tennyson wrote another one of his classics, The Charge Of The Light Brigade. The poem is a tribute to the British cavalrymen who were involved in an ill-fated charge on October 25th, 1854, during the Crimean War.
In 1884, Queen Victoria - a huge fan of his work - bestowed on Tennyson the title Baron Tennyson of Aldworth, and he took a seat in Parliament's House of Lords.
Alfred Lord Tennyson continued to write into his 80s. Near the end of his life, he revealed that he had pretty much rejected religion and become an agnostic. It was a shocking revelation, even in the waning years of the Victorian era, but not a surprise.
He'd blasted Christianity in Maud, writing that "the churches have killed their Christ," and in Locksley Hall Sixty Years After, he wrote that "Christian love among the churches look'd the twin of heathen hate."
Tennyson died in October of 1892 at the age of 83. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. He is rightfully considered to be one of the greatest poets of the English language.
Quote Of The Day
"Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within." - Alfred Lord Tennyson
Today's video features a reading of Alfred Lord Tennyson's classic poem, The Lady of Shallott. Enjoy!