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.
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.
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.
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.