Alfred Lord Tennyson
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After Wordsworth died in 1850,
there was talk of abolishing the post; some journals suggested a
woman for the position, with the first choice being Elizabeth Barrett
Browning. The poet's own choice was Leigh Hunt. And with generous
spirit, Hunt himself wrote: 'if the Office in future is really
to be bestowed on the highest degree of poetical merit, and on that
only, then Mr Alfred Tennyson is entitled to it above any other
man in the kingdom.' And so it was: Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
was forty-one when he accepted the post. This caricature of him
is by 'Ape' (Carlo Pelligrini), which first appeared
in Vanity Fair, 22 July 1871.
Tennyson. London: William Collins, 1941.
Bra. Pr 5553 WE49
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After meeting Tennyson in London,
Wordsworth wrote of him: 'He is decidedly the first of our
living poets, and I hope will live to give the world still better
things.' It was Tennyson's Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (1830)
that established his reputation. Later published verse in 1833 and
1842 helped consolidate his position as an important English poet.
In Memoriam, perhaps his most important work, appeared in 1850.
As Laureate, of course, he received countless examples of bad verse
from would-be Victorian poets. In defence he wrote: 'If any
good soul would just by way of a diversion send me a good tome of
prose!' Although Maud (1855) received some reader criticism,
Tennyson's 'Come into the Garden Maud' remains
one of his more memorable pieces.
Songs: Selected from the Works of Lord Tennyson. London: Astolat
Bra PR 5551 1903
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When the Duke of Wellington
died in 1852, Tennyson wrote an Ode that was published on the morning
of the funeral (17 November). Tennyson took readily to producing
such poems on national occasions, and often the result matched the
mood or need of the moment. 'The Charge of the Light Brigade',
a response to the 'glorious catastrophe' (W.H. Russell)
at Balaclava on 25 October 1854, is but one example. Composed while
sweeping up leaves, Tennyson dashed it off for publication in The
Examiner (December 9th). Although his uncle was one who dubbed it
'horrid rubbish', it was extremely popular and was buoyed
up by the atmosphere of war.
Alfred Tennyson, Maud, and Other Poems. London: E. Moxon, 1855.
DeB. Eb 1855 T
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One aspect of Tennyson's
laureateship set him apart from his predecessors: he was a friend
of the monarch. He refused a baronetcy three times, eventually accepting
one in the Spring of 1884. By then he was the most famous poet in
the world, a larger than life national figure. He had 33 years of
the post behind him and over his long life produced dozens of books.
When he died on 6 October 1892, the whole nation mourned. He was
the last truly great poet laureate.
The Poetical Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. London: Thomas Nelson,
Bra. PR 5550 1902