Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born in 1809 at Somersby Rectory in Lincolnshire, but his father, the Reverend Dr. George Tennyson, was not the typical Anglican clergyman. As the dispossessed eldest son of a wealthy landowner, he was forced to accept a profession he disliked, but it afforded him time to educate his children. A man of culture and intelligence himself, he noticed early that Alfred, the fourth of his twelve children, had a gift for poetry, which he readily encouraged. Alfred began writing verses during his earliest years, and at twelve he began an epic poem in imitation of Sir Walter Scott . This caused his father to remark: “If that boy dies, one of our greatest poets will have gone.” Tennyson was spurred on by this encouragement and by collaboration with his brother Charles; Poems by Two Brothers was published when Alfred was still in his teens.
When Tennyson went to Cambridge in 1827, he became associated with a group of brilliant young men who called themselves the Apostles. One of the most gifted of them, Arthur Hallam, became his best friend and chief advocate. This group of friends helped him to overcome his initial shyness; they gave him confidence and broadened his experience so that in the next few years he published two volumes of poetry: Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (1830) and Poems (1832, imprinted 1833).
All seemed to be going well in a promising literary career but then came a series of shocks. The most traumatic was certainly the sudden death of Hallam in 1833; their friendship had become so close and deep that Tennyson went into a long period of depression following his friend’s death. He published very little over the next nine years, but rather than attribute these...
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