Tennyson, Alfred Lord

Tennyson, Alfred Lord

Alfred Lord Tennyson

1809 - 1892

          In the same year Alfred Tennyson wrote his first Arthurian poem "Morte d'Arthur" (1833), Samuel Taylor Coleridge claimed "as to Arthur, you could not by any means make a poem national to Englishmen. What have we to do with him?" (qtd. in Rosenberg "Tennyson"). This implication that Arthurian literature is escapist and irrelevant is a familiar criticism. In contrast and perhaps response, Tennyson called the Arthurian legend "the greatest of all poetical subjects," which partly explains why this tradition so heavily influenced his writing. With varying degrees of intensity, Tennyson drafted and revised his Arthurian epic -- Idylls of the King -- from his early twenties until a few months before his death, popularizing what became an avid Victorian interest in Arthuriana.

          Tennyson was born on the fifth of August in 1809 and grew up in a small village of Somersby, Lincolnshire. Throughout his childhood his father, George Clayton Tennyson, suffered from deteriorating mental health, epileptic fits, and alcoholism. Tennyson's father went to Cambridge to study for the church, eventually becoming responsible for the Somersby Rectory. Alfred and his siblings were known to play in a brook at the bottom of the Rectory garden, and it was the scene of castle-building and mock-tournaments. Elizabeth Fytche Tennyson, Alfred's mother, loved poetry and often read aloud to her children James Beattie's Minstrel, James Thomson's The Seasons, or the work of Felicia Hemans. Alfred memorized much seventeenth- and eighteenth-century poetry, including the works of Milton, William Collins, and


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