Chronology of Alfred Lord Tennyson Life and Works

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      Alfred Tennyson, son of the rector of Somersby, Mid-Lincolnshire, was born on August, 6, 1809. After some schooling at home, he was sent to Louth. His elder brothers were both poets, and with one of them he published a volume of poems in 1826. Two years later he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became the centre of a group of influential friends; among them were Spedding, J.M. Kemble, Trench, Monckton Milne (the biographer of Keats), Lushington, and Arthur Hallam, the object of the poet's lament in In Memoriam. They were all devoted to letters, and exercised their influence for the revival of interest in forgotten poets far beyond the limits of the university. In 1829, Tennyson wrote Timbuctoo, which won the Chancellor's prize for the best poem of the year. The first promise of real power came in 1832, with a volume of poems chiefly lyrical. But only a few friendly and discerning critics received it with any warmth. He went to the Pyrenees for a tour in 1831; its experiences had a marked influence on the volume of poems published ten years later.

      1832-1850. The next nine years brought forth some of the best known of his lyrics. He assiduously improved and amplified the poems issued in 1832, and his handling of his own previous work shows great critical discernment and growth of original power as an artist. The poems of 1842, secured his place and brought him much popularity. The Princess: A Medley, published in 1847, is a melodrama in blank verse. It ridicules the feminine movement that was making itself felt in the middle of the nineteenth century. Its only interest today is a number of beautiful songs interspersed through it. Wordsworth died in April, 1850, and in the following November, Tennyson succeeded to the laureateship. In this year fell the anonymous publication of In Memoriam, his noblest contribution to our "literature of thought." In the June of this year he had married Emily Sarah Sellwood, whom he had met several years before. The Tennyson's then settled down at Twickenham.

      1850-1870. In 1853, they moved to the Isle of Wight, returning in 1867 to Aldworth (Sussex), where he built a house after his own design, and established himself there for the remainder of his life. Maud: A Monodrama, published in 1855, is Tennyson's further excursion into the personal lyric to give it a wider and deeper meaning. In this period he is seen working at the Celtic Arthurian legend, already handled in some exquisitely beautiful poems: The Lady of Shalott, Sir Galahad, and Morte d'Arthur. The first four Idylls came in 1870, but his design was not completed till 1885. This is his most ambitious work. It could not fail to be interesting, but as a whole, it fails for lack of any internal unity. Because the poet is so deeply a Victorian at heart that he is unable to project himself into the age of chivalry. The Idylls are further encumbered by an allegorical symbolism, to which our attention is drawn in the Dedication: "They are a new-old tale, shadowing sense at war with soul."

      But whatever the merit of these Idylls in other fields, the poet had reached the maturity of his power. Enoch Arden and Aylmer's Field (1864), show the perfection of his art in narrative or idyllic verse.

      1870-1892. Now followed a series of dramas mainly historical in subject: Queen Mary (1875). Harold (1877), Becket (1884), etc. He showed brilliant power in creating character, but they are not successful on the stage because they are strong in literary excellences but lack truly dramatic qualities. Between 1880-1890, published volumes of idylls, lyrics and ballads showing a wide range of interests and a sure perfection of art. History, tales in dialect, chiefly of Lincolnshire a few beautiful classical pieces, narratives of the profoundest pathos; poems treating contemporary problems in religion and morality, science and politics are all included.

      In January 1884, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Tennyson of Freshwater and Aldsworth. He died on October 6, 1892, at his home in Aldsworth; he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

      The Chief Dates of Publication of Tennyson's Works are:

1827. Poems by Two Brothers (Alfred and Charles Tennyson)
1830. Poems, Chiefly Lyrical.
1832. Poems (dated 1833).
1842. Poems (2 Volumes)
1847. The Princess.
1850. In Memoriam.
1852. Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington.
1855. Maud, and Other Poems.
1859. Idylls of the King (four only).
1864. Enoch Arden. 
1869. The Holy Grail, and Other Poems.
1872. Gareth and Lunette. Etc.
1875. Queen Mary: A Drama.
1876. Harold.
1880. Ballads, and Other Poems.
1884. Becket.
1885. Teresias, and Other Poems.
1886. Locksley Hall Sixty Years After, Etc.
1889. Demeter, and Other Poems.
1892. The Foresters, Etc.
1892. The Death of Oenone, and Other Poems.
(The last volume was published posthumously.)

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