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EDITED FOR SCHOOL AND HOME USE BY
ALBERT F. BLAISDELL, A.M., M.D.,
AUTHOR OF "STUDY OF THE ENGLISH CLASSICS,
OUTLINES FOR THE STUDY OF
THE ENGLISH CLASSICS,"
LIFE OF TENNYSON.
ALFRED TENNYSON, one of the greatest poets of our times, was born in 1810 at Somersby, in Lincolnshire, England, of which place his father was rector. He was the third of a large family, several other members of which shared with him in some measure the genius which has won for him his undisputed rank as the first English poet of his time. At the age of seventeen, Tennyson, in conjunction with his brother Charles, issued a small volume called "Poems, by Two Brothers," of which almost nothing has been preserved. While a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1829, he gained the Chancellor's Medal by a poem in blank verse, entitled "Timbuctoo," in which there is plainly to be seen some impress of his peculiar genius. His literary career, however, may properly be said to date from 1830, in which year a volume appeared called "Poems, chiefly Lyrical." It contained many exquisite pieces, and clearly marked the advent of a true poet, yet it was not received with great favor by the public.
Three years afterward another volume made its appearance, and it, too, though rich in poetic thought, failed to awaken public interest, and received unkindly criticism at the hands of the reviewers. For nine years thereafter the world heard nothing of Alfred Tennyson. In 1842, however, a third effort was made to win favor, by the publication of two volumes of poems. The effort was successful, the path to fame and fortune was open before him; and to the encouragement he then received we are largely indebted for the splendid poems which have since proceeded from his pen. Onward from this time the reputation of the poet slowly but surely extended itself. In 1847, appeared "The Princess, a Medley ;" and in 1850, "In Memoriam,' a tribute of affection to the memory of Arthur Hallam, the chosen friend of the poet in his earlier years at Cambridge. On the death of Wordsworth, in 1850, Tennyson succeeded him as poet-laureate. In 1855, appeared 66 Maud, and other Poems," which added nothing to the poet's fame. "The Idyls of the King," published in 1859, was everywhere received with enthusiasm. These poems at once took rank as
LIFE OF TENNYSON.
some of the noblest in our language. In 1864, Tennyson published a volume containing "Enoch Arden," one of his most finished and successful works; 'Aylmer's Field;" a short piece, "Tithonus," remarkable for its beauty and finish. "The Holy Grail" and other poems appeared in 1870; and in 1872, "The Tournament " and Gareth and Lynette." During the period from 1869 to 1872, the second series of the "Idyls of the King" was published. In 1875, Tennyson published a drama, called "Queen Mary;" two years later "The Lover's Tale," begun, and a fragment printed, in 1833, and a second drama entitled "Harold." "Ballads," a score of poems, appeared in 1880, since which time the poet-laureate has made, occasional contributions to the leading periodicals. Tennyson's biography, even more than that of most authors, is given, as far as the public is concerned with it, in the simple enumeration of his works. His poetry is pure, tender, ennobling. No blot, no stain mars its beauty. His verse is the most faultless in our language, both as regards the music of its flow and the art displayed in the choice of words. As a painter, no modern poet has equaled him. His portraits and ideas of women are the most delicate in the whole range of English poetry. His language, although consisting for the most part of strong and pithy Saxon words, is yet the very perfection of all that is elegant and musical in the art of versification.
The pleasure which his poetry gives springs largely from the cordial interest he displays in the life and pursuits of men, in his capacity for apprehending their higher and more beautiful aspirations, and in a certain purity and strength of spiritual feeling. In character he is modest and unassuming, and shrinks from publicity.
Caroline Fox, in her "Memories of Old Friends," says that "Tennyson is a grand specimen of a man, with a magnificent head set on his shoulders, like the capital of a mighty pillar. His hair is long and wavy, and covers a massive head. He wears a beard and mustache, which one begrudges as hiding so much of that firm, powerful, but finely chiseled mouth. His eyes are large and gray, and open wide when a subject interests him; they are well shaded by the noble brow, with its strong lines of thought and suffering."
ALFRED TENNYSON. 1810
"Not of the howling dervishes of song,
Who craze the brain with their delirious dance,
For thy allegiance to the poet's art."-Longfellow.
"Tennyson is endowed precisely in points where Wordsworth wanted. There is no finer ear, nor more command of the keys of language."-Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"Versification broken and irregular, but inexpressibly charming; sometimes fantastic. Of the living poets of England, Tennyson at this time occupies the highest rank.”—Alison.
"Every stanza in his descriptive poems brings up a vivid scene to the least imaginative reader; the earth, the sky, and the sea are to be seen in harmony with the feeling of the hour; and by their sympathetic aspect give dignity and intensity to the human interest."-F. H. Underwood.
"To describe his command of language, by any ordinary terms expressive of fluency or force, would be to convey an idea both inadequate and erroneous. It is not only that he knows every word in the language suited to express his every idea: he can select with the ease of magic the word that is, of all others, the best for his purpose."-Peter Bayne.