Alfred Tennyson was born at Somersby in Lincolnshire, England, on August 6, 1809. His father was a rector, and the poet’s boyhood was passed in an atmosphere of poetry and music. Even as a child he wrote verses, and some of these were published in 1827 in a volume, “Poems by Two Brothers,” written by himself and his elder brother Charles.
He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1829, and in the same year won the chancellor’s medal with a blank-verse poem called “Timbuctoo.” His closest friend at college was Arthur Henry Hallam, a brilliant young man who belonged to The Apostles, a society of which Tennyson was also a member.
“Poems, Chiefly Lyrical,” was published in 1830; but the following year, soon after the death of his father, the poet left Cambridge without taking his degree. He then decided to devote his life to writing poetry. A small volume of poems published in 1832 proved that he had chosen well; for it contained some of his best work.
But now for ten years the poet kept silence. He did not publish another line of poetry until 1842. The reason for this was the death of his friend Arthur Hallam. Hallam was the closest intimate of Tennyson, and when he died suddenly at Vienna in 1833 the poet received a blow from which he never fully recovered. But this great loss was poetically the making of Tennyson. The volume of 1842 contained some of his greatest poems, among them being “Ulysses,” “Locksley Hall,” and “Break, Break, Break.”
Five years after this appeared “The Princess,” a long poem treating of the “woman question” in a half-humorous way. It is a poem of great beauty.
Then in 1850 came the elegy on the death of Hallam, “In Memoriam.” This had been long expected, and it proved to be one of the greatest poems of the century.
In the same year Tennyson married Emily Sellwood, and was appointed poet laureate to succeed Wordsworth. His first official poem in this position was the “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington” in 1852. Two years later “The Charge of the Light Brigade” electrified the world. “Maud” appeared in 1855, and then four years later began the publication of the famous “Idylls of the King,” poems in blank verse telling of King Arthur and his court. From that time on Tennyson wrote many poems and dramas.
In 1884 he was made Lord Tennyson, first Baron of Aldworth and Farringford. He took the title from his two country houses in Sussex and on the Isle of Wight. On October 6, 1892, Tennyson died at Aldworth “with the moonlight falling on closed eyes and voiceless lips.”