Arthur Henry Hallam’s chief contribution to English poetry lies in his influence upon Tennyson, including their rivalry and friendship, their mutual literary and intellectual reflections, and the tragic questioning of Hallam’s loss that resulted in Tennyson’s In Memoriam. Both were aspiring poets prior to their meeting, but Hallam’s kindred mind almost certainly deepened Tennyson’s in certain respects and helped him to some liberating influences, those of Shelley and Italy in particular. Tennyson’s lifelong commitments to political and religious freedom, scenic travel, and poetic concern with landscape and geology probably owed a great deal to Hallam. Anyone familiar with Tennyson’s poems, moreover, is aware that Hallam inspired not only In Memoriam but also some shorter poems, such as “Ulysses,” which was in large part a heroic response to the news of Hallam’s death, and “Vastness,” which was in part a poignant reminiscence of it. Tennyson’s longest poem, Idylls of the King (1859-1885), an epic of King Arthur, is thought to reflect the idealized humanity that Hallam might well have achieved. Full discussion of Tennyson’s poetry, then, would deal at length with Hallam as a literary influence.
Poetry as biography
The poems that Hallam left are especially valuable as biography. While still at Eton in 1827, he published some verses on a story connected with the Lake of Killarney in the...
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