Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson was born August 1, 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire. Tennyson was the fourth out of twelve children (eleven who survived). He grew up in a middle-class family: Alfred’s father was a clergyman who oversaw his education, while his mother inspired his love for poetry. Tennyson attended Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1827 and published his first collection of poetry, Poems Chiefly Lyrical, in 1830. However, because of his father’s death, Tennyson left Cambridge before graduating.

Tennyson published his first Arthurian poem, The Lady of Shalott, in 1833, though he would go on to revise and republish the poem a number of times. The writer stated that he believed that the Arthurian legend was “the greatest of all poetical subjects.” Tennyson published the entirety of the Idylls of the King between 1869 and 1885, catalyzing (and responding to) a Victorian interest in and popularization of the Arthurian legend. Tennyson held the position of Poet Laureate for a long part of Queen Victoria’s reign, beginning in 1850 and ending in 1892 at the time of his death.

On Tennyson’s death on October 7, 1892, in his Aldworth home in Surrey, the attending physician wrote: “Lord Tennyson has had a gloriously beautiful death. In all my experience I have never witnessed anything more glorious. There were no artificial lights in the chamber, and all was in darkness save for the silvery light of the moon at its full. The soft beams of light fell upon the bed and played upon the features of the living poet like a halo of Rembrandt” (The Morning Post from London, 1892). Tennyson was buried in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner.

Ref: Zanzucchi, Anne. “Tennyson, Alfred Lord.” The Camelot Project: A Robbins Library Digital Project.