Arthur Henry Hallam Hallam, Arthur Henry - Essay


(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

Arthur Henry Hallam 1811-1833

(Also wrote under the names Arthur Hallam and A. H. H.) English essayist and poet.

Arthur Henry Hallam is known primarily as a friend of Alfred Tennyson and the subject of Tennyson's elegy In Memoriam. Yet among his contemporaries, Hallam was admired for his intelligence and critical acuity. At the time of his death at twenty-two years of age, Hallam was generally regarded as a young writer with promise, especially as an essayist. “On Some of the Characteristics of Modern Poetry, and on the Lyrical Poems of Alfred Tennyson,” Hallam's review of Tennyson's Poems, Chiefly Lyrical, remains his best-known work. The essay has been labeled a poetic manifesto, and poets such as William Butler Yeats have acknowledged its influence on their writing. Although much of the scholarship on Hallam still focuses on his relationship with Tennyson—as his friend, as his editor and critic, and as his inspiration—Hallam's critical essays are viewed increasingly as significant documents in their own right.

Biographical Information

Arthur Henry Hallam was born in 1811, the eldest child of Henry Hallam and Julia Maria Elton Hallam. His father was a prominent historian, philosopher, and the author of Constitutional History of England from the Accession of Henry VII to the Death of George II. Like his father, Arthur demonstrated an interest in politics and was a successful member of the Eton Debating Society from 1822 until his graduation in 1827. Through these debates, both in political and literary arenas, Hallam formed friendships with such notable figures as Francis Hastings Doyle, James Milnes Gaskell, and William Gladstone. Traveling in Italy during the winter of 1827-1828, Arthur became enamoured with Anna Wintour, an Englishwoman eight years his senior. His infatuation led him to compose poems in praise of both Wintour and Italy.

Returning to English in 1828, Hallam attended Trinity College, Cambridge at his father's request. In doing so, Hallam was separated from his friends who went on to attend Christ Church, Oxford. It was a situation that distressed the sensitive Hallam. However, he eventually adjusted and became a respected member of the Cambridge Apostle Society. While at Trinity, Hallam's interests in metaphysics and poetry continued to develop, and he met Tennyson during a competition for the Cambridge Chancellor's English Verse prize in 1829. Each admired the other, and they formed a lifelong friendship that would affect both of them deeply. During Christmas break of 1829, Hallam brought Tennyson and his brother Charles to London to meet his Eton friends. In 1830, Tennyson reciprocated. It was at this time that Hallam met and fell in love with Tennyson's younger sister Emily. Hallam's intimacy with the Tennyson family was tempered by his father's refusal to have Hallam publish his poems with Tennyson, perhaps to counter what Henry viewed as Hallam's excessive interest in metaphysical poetry. Hallam's Poems by A.H. Hallam Esq. (1830) was privately published and circulated in a separate volume. By the end of 1830, Hallam had proposed secretly to Emily; they had spent a total of approximately one month in each other's presence.

From this point until his death in 1833, Hallam's life increasingly centered on the Tennyson family. Hallam assumed the role of Tennyson's publisher and reviewer. His essay on Tennyson's 1830 poems established Hallam as a thoughtful critic. During this time Hallam had promised his father he would not see Emily until after his twenty-first birthday. Hallam secretly broke this promise at least once. After Hallam's birthday, Henry accepted the engagement and entered financial negotiations with Emily's family. Hallam began a career in law in fulfillment of Henry's career plans for his son. The nuptial negotiations proved difficult, with neither Henry nor Emily's family able to reach a mutual settlement. Hallam intervened with the Tennyson family at several points without success. Throughout this period, Hallam continued to work as Tennyson's editor, soliciting interest in Tennyson's work, preparing manuscripts for publication, and prodding Tennyson to write. A meeting between Hallam's parents and Tennyson and his sister Mary in the spring of 1833 gave hope that Hallam's engagement to Emily would progress, but Hallam's happiness was tempered by a bout of illness. At Henry's suggestion, father and son took a recuperative trip. While in Vienna, Hallam apparently suffered a relapse. He died on September 15, 1833, and an autopsy indicated an aneurism. Hallam's body was sent to England for burial at Clevedon Church by the Severn River. Hallam's father later published an edited collection of Hallam's writings, Remains, in Verse and Prose, of Arthur Henry Hallam (1834). Tennyson, despondent over Hallam's death, was unable to write its preface. Tennyson's famous elegy to Hallam, In Memoriam, was published in 1850.

Major Works

Hallam left a small body of work, though he was generally considered to have demonstrated a great deal of potential. His review of Tennyson's poems is his most famous work. In this essay entitled “On Some of the Characteristics of Modern Poetry, and on the Lyrical Poems of Alfred Tennyson,” Hallam distinguishes between the poetry of reflection and the poetry of sensation. Making this distinction permitted Hallam to position Tennyson as a new type of poet. The essay, though little known outside Hallam's circle at the time of its publication, articulated an influential moment in aesthetic tradition. Critics still argue about the implications of this essay for Hallam's contemporaries and subsequent writers. Hallam wrote other essays, as well as poetry, that demonstrated his continued interest in philosophy and art. Essay on the Philosophical Writings of Cicero (1832) critically examined Cicero's work and its influence upon the English. “Theodicaea Novissima,” delivered shortly before Hallam received his B.A. in 1832, presented a theological argument on the necessary existence of moral evil. His interest in these types of questions are evident in most of his writings, which are collected posthumously as Remains, in Verse and Prose, of Arthur Henry Hallam, The Writings of Arthur Henry Hallam (1943), and The Letters of Arthur Henry Hallam (1981). Although Hallam's other writings have not achieved the notoriety of his essay on Tennyson, Hallam's works reflect the continued development of his interests presented in that essay.

Critical Reception

Most scholarship that discusses Arthur Henry Hallam does so in relationship to Alfred Tennyson and his In Memoriam. Even work which is overtly concerned with Hallam tends to be concerned with Tennyson. The bulk of work on Hallam focuses on his review essay of Tennyson's poetry. It is a work which has generated a fair amount of interest. While critics generally agree on the importance of Hallam's essay “On Some of the Characteristics of Modern Poetry, and on the Lyrical Poems of Alfred Tennyson,” the exact nature of its importance is debated. Norman Friedman suggests the essay demonstrates Hallam's development of a precursor to modernism. Eileen Tess Johnston (see further reading) argues that Hallam presents the possibility that poetry is a moral aesthetic. Steven Dillon criticizes Hallam for oversimplifying the nuances of poetic conventions in order to reinforce the worth of Tennyson's poetry. If each of these scholars adopt a different position, they agree on the influence of Hallam's critical writing on Hallam's other works and on the work of others, particularly Tennyson. Other representative scholars include Philip Flynn, who examines the tension between the ideas Hallam expressed in “Theodicaea Novissima” and Tennyson's In Memoriam. Aidan Day considers the version of Timbuctoo (1829) created by Hallam side-by-side with Tennyson's version to trace Hallam's artistic and theoretical influences. Finally, Jack Kolb, whose body of criticism on Hallam is considerable, argues for the examination of Hallam's letters to consider Hallam's standing among his contemporaries. Regardless of his own standing as a poet, critics concur that Hallam and his critical writings are worthy of analysis.

Principal Works

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

Timbuctoo (poetry) 1829

Poems by A. H. Hallam Esq. (poetry) 1830

“On Some of the Characteristics of Modern Poetry, and on the Lyric Poems of Alfred Tennyson” (essay) 1831

Essay on the Philosophical Writings of Cicero (essay) 1832

Remains, in Verse and Prose, of Arthur Henry Hallam (poetry and essays) 1834

The Writings of Arthur Henry Hallam (poetry and essays) 1943

The Letters of Arthur Henry Hallam (letters) 1981

Jack Kolb (essay date 1973)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kolb, Jack. “The Hero and His Worshippers: The History of Arthur Henry Hallam's Letters.” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 56, no. 1 (autumn 1973): 150-73.

[In the following essay, Kolb traces the publication history of Hallam's writings and argues for the value of an edition of Hallam's letters.]

In his recent article on Victorian biography and Victorian reticence, Gordon Haight quotes a highly characteristic passage from a Tennyson letter:

I heard of an old lady the other day, to whom all the great men of her time had written. When Froude's Carlyle came out, she marched up to her room &...

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Norman Friedman (essay date 1975)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Friedman, Norman. “Hallam on Tennyson: An Early Aesthetic Doctrine and Modernism.” Studies in the Literary Imagination 8, no. 2 (fall 1975): 37-62.

[In the following essay, Friedman examines “On Some of the Characteristics of Modern Poetry, and on the Lyrical Poems of Alfred Tennyson.” He claims the essay demonstrates Hallam as an original and almost prescient critic, noting connections between Hallam's essay and modernism.]

Tennyson praised Hallam, whose death set In Memoriam in motion, as a man of unusual intellectual promise cut off in his prime. If Hallam's essay, “On Some of the Characteristics of Modern Poetry”...

(The entire section is 13146 words.)

Philip Flynn (essay date 1979)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Flynn, Philip. “Hallam and Tennyson: the ‘Theodicaea Novissima’ and In Memoriam.Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 19, no. 4 (autumn 1979): 705-20.

[In the following essay, Flynn closely analyzes the influence of Hallam's ontological essay, “Theodicaea Novissima,” on Alfred Tennyson's eulogy to Hallam, In Memoriam.]

When Arthur Hallam and Tennyson matriculated at Cambridge in the late 1820s, the University was in a period of theological transition. Orthodox Anglican theology, timid and insular in spirit, looked backward to the eighteenth century. The epistemological attitude of Paley's Natural Theology (1802) prevailed,...

(The entire section is 6745 words.)

Aidan Day (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Day, Aidan. “The Spirit of Fable: Arthur Hallam and Romantic Values in Tennyson's ‘Timbuctoo’.” The Tennyson Research Bulletin 4, no. 2 (November 1983): 59-71.

[In the following essay, Day analyzes Hallam's Timbuctoo and Tennyson's poem of the same name. Day concludes that Tennyson's poem is influenced considerably by Hallam's version.]

In attempts to identify external factors which may help account for the Romantic bias marking Tennyson's 1829 Cambridge Prize Poem “Timbuctoo” commentators tend to refer only to general influences: the broad currency of Romantic ideas at Cambridge in the late 1820s and the special enthusiasm for Romantic...

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Steven Dillon (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Dillon, Steven. “Canonical and Sensational: Arthur Hallam and Tennyson's 1830 Poems.Victorian Poetry 30, no. 2 (Summer 1992): 95-108.

[In the following essay, Dillon critiques Hallam's “On Some of the Characteristics of Modern Poetry, and on the Lyrical Poems of Alfred Tennyson.” Dillon claims the essay establishes an artificial distinction between reflection and sensation in order to canonize Tennyson.]

In an important essay, Gerald Bruns suggests that the movement from Romanticism to Victorianism could be characterized as a paradigm shift from transcendence to immanence.1 The vertical axis of imagination and epiphanic nature...

(The entire section is 6036 words.)

Further Reading

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)


Kolb, Jack. “Arthur Hallam and Emily Tennyson.” The Review of English Studies 28, no. 109 (February 1977): 2-48.

Reconsiders the chronology of Hallam's romantic relationship with Emily Tennyson by examining letters and other writings.

Kolb, Jack. “Christ Church or Trinity: Arthur Henry Hallam's Matriculation.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews 12, no. 3 (summer 1999): 38-41.

Refutes the long-standing idea that Hallam's matriculation at Trinity College, Cambridge, reflected his father's first choice of schools.



(The entire section is 400 words.)