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Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)

Author of Idylls of the King

646+ Works 12,280 Members 87 Reviews 57 Favorited

About the Author

Alfred Tennyson was born on August 6, 1809 in Somersby, England. He attended Trinity College in Cambridge. Tennyson is chiefly known for his poetry, an art form that had interested him since the age of six. His best known work is the Idylls of the King. Tennyson was appointed Poet Laureate of show more England in 1850 and became the Baron of Aldworth and Farrington in 1883. Tennyson was still writing his his 80s, and died on October 6, 1892 near Haslemere, England. (Bowker Author Biography) If there were a contest for the title "greatest Victorian poet," Tennyson would in death, as in life, obtain the prize. He had the finest ear of any English poet, admitting to know the metrical value of every word in the English language except "scissors." In addition, his ability to evoke a closely rendered scene was unsurpassed. Therefore, although those who sought to attack Tennyson called him "the stupidest of the English poets," he remains the only one ennobled for his poetry. Tennyson was born at Somersby rectory in Lincolnshire, the son of the rector there, and was educated at Louth Grammar School and Trinity College, Cambridge. His earliest published verse, Poems Chiefly Lyrical (1830) and Poems (1833), were considered too sentimental by many critics. Signs of future greatness could be detected in some of the poems in these collections, however. In 1842, a new volume entitled Poems was published. This work, consisting of heavily revised poems from the two earlier collections as well as many new poems, helped to establish Tennyson's fame. His masterpiece, In Memoriam (1850), crowned his fame. The work is a tribute to his close friend Arthur Henry Hallam, whose sudden death in 1833 was a crucial event in the poet's life. The year it was published he succeeded Wordsworth as poet laureate of England. Thereafter, he became tremendously popular and held the respect and admiration of the nation, including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. From that point, Tennyson also became the poet of the establishment, and for the next 40 years he was the Parnassian idol whom younger poets would vainly seek to topple. In many of his poems, including "Ulysses," "The Princess," and "Idylls of the King" (1859--1885), Tennyson trumpeted the creed of the benevolent tyrant. It was this embrace of an authoritarian universe that, as much as his versecraft, had earned him the respect of the British monarchs. His lifelong fascination with King Arthur was the inspiration for Idylls of the King, a series of 12 narrative poems published over a period of 26 years. In 1888, Tennyson chronologically arranged these 12 poems, thus depicting the full story of Arthur and his vision of the perfect state. Tennyson's last poem, "Crossing the Bar," was a 16-line lyric written while crossing from Lymington to the Isle of Wight. It was included in a collection entitled Demeter and Other Poems published in 1889. Tennyson's most characteristic form of poetry was the idyl, a poem of country life. These poems frequently take the form of dramatic reveries that tell a story. Mood is often created through the power of richly described settings. All of Tennyson's work reflects his talent for achieving fine shades of poetic expression, and his lyrics express the emotions and experiences shared by all people. His work is also notable for its heroic quality. In 1883, Tennyson was awarded the title of Baron Tennyson by Queen Victoria; his full title was Baron of Aldworth and Farringford. When he died in 1892, he was buried in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. Tennyson's letters show almost nothing of the vividness and brilliance of his poetry, but Cecil Y. Lang and Edgar F. Shannon have been publishing them for their sidelights. More important for an understanding of Tennyson's poetry, the century-long ban on publishing the contents of Tennyson's notebooks, held by Trinity College in Cambridge, was lifted not long ago; an edition of In Memoriam, incorporating these variants, was brought out by Susan Shatto and Marion Shaw in 1982. (Bowker Author Biography) show less


Works by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Idylls of the King (1939) 2,500 copies
Poems of Tennyson (1880) — Author — 1,127 copies
The Lady of Shalott (1986) 523 copies
Selected Poems (Dover Thrift Editions) (1992) — Author — 365 copies
Tennyson's Poems (1800) 250 copies
In Memoriam (1850) 181 copies
The Princess (1864) 144 copies
Enoch Arden (1864) 105 copies
Selected Poems (2003) 77 copies
The Song of the Brook (1881) 60 copies
The King Arthur Collection (1350) — Author — 42 copies
The Coming of Arthur (1900) 41 copies
Poems of Tennyson {Buckley} (1958) 38 copies
A Choice of Tennyson's Verse (1971) — Author — 36 copies
Maud, and other poems (1855) 30 copies
Enoch Arden and Other Poems (1916) 29 copies
The Holy Grail (1904) 27 copies
Maud (1878) 26 copies
Selections from Tennyson (1921) 24 copies
In Memoriam and Other Poems (1899) 24 copies
The Princess and Maud (1888) 24 copies
Lancelot and Elaine (1900) 21 copies
Gems from Tennyson (1866) 19 copies
Tennyson (1878) 18 copies
Beauties of Tennyson (1885) 17 copies
Queen Mary : a drama (1875) 16 copies
A Dream of Fair Women (1880) 15 copies
Crossing the Bar (1900) 14 copies
Ulysses (2012) 13 copies
Gareth and Lynette (1872) 13 copies
Tennyson Poems & Plays (1967) 13 copies
An Evening with Tennyson (1907) 13 copies
Ballads and other poems (1880) 12 copies
Lady Clare (1884) 12 copies
Morte d'Arthur (1988) 12 copies
Songs and poems (1940) 11 copies
Tiresias, and other poems (1885) 11 copies
Demeter and other Poems (2003) 11 copies
Gareth & Lynette &c (1872) 10 copies
Tennyson: Poetry & Prose (1947) 9 copies
The Last Tournament (2012) 9 copies
Tennyson and Browning (1947) 9 copies
Harold; a drama 8 copies
Tennyson: Pocket Poets (1958) 7 copies
Becket (1884) 7 copies
Becket and Other Plays (2004) 7 copies
Elaine (2007) 6 copies
Love Poems of Tennyson (1920) 6 copies
Selections from Tennyson (1957) — Author — 5 copies
The Best of Tennyson (1930) 5 copies
Lovers Tale 5 copies
Tales from Tennyson (2016) 5 copies
Ring Out, WIld Bells (1882) 5 copies
The May Queen (2015) 5 copies
Selected poems. (1964) 5 copies
Vivien (1867) 4 copies
Poems, chiefly lyrical (1991) 4 copies
Violets from Tennyson (1898) 4 copies
Locksley Hall (1886) 4 copies
FAMOUS POEMS (1932) 4 copies
Queen Mary and Harold (2012) 4 copies
Princess. Maud. 3 copies
The Kraken (1830) 3 copies
Tennyson's Works (1878) 3 copies
Geraint and Enid (1906) 3 copies
Mariana 2 copies
Guinevere 2 copies
The Brook and Other Poems (1893) 2 copies
The Falcon 2 copies
Poems, Volume II (1856) 2 copies
The Works of Tennyson (1969) 2 copies
Fifty Poems: 1830-1864 (2014) 2 copies
Now sleeps the crimson Petal. (Sheet music) (1904) — Lyrics — 2 copies
Tithonus 2 copies
Tennyson Poetry 2 copies
Tennyson: Selected poems (1999) 2 copies
Merlin and Vivien (2013) 2 copies
Tennyson's Poetical Works (1900) 2 copies
Stories From Tennyson (1914) 2 copies
The Eagle 2 copies
Tennyson Poetical Works (1880) 2 copies
Cycle of songs from Maud — Lyrics — 2 copies
Unpublished Early Poems (1932) 2 copies
The Gateway to Tennyson (1910) 2 copies
Poems, 1832 (2015) 1 copy
Works 1 copy
A Book of Merlin (2016) 1 copy
Selected poems (1967) 1 copy
The Open Air 1 copy
Day by Day 1 copy
The Daisy 1 copy
The Higher Pantheism (2006) 1 copy
Choric Song 1 copy
The Poet 1 copy
Song 1 copy
To the Queen 1 copy
Day Dream (ill.) (1886) 1 copy
ALFRED TENNYSON: POEMS OF 1842. (1968) — Author — 1 copy
Miti e leggende (2008) 1 copy
Song of the Brook (2017) 1 copy
Dedication 1 copy
Dikter 1 copy
Dora 1 copy
Select Poems of Alfred Tennyson — Author — 1 copy
The Cup (2017) 1 copy
Works (2 vols.) (2013) 1 copy
Tiresias. 1 copy
Lyric Poems 1 copy
The Devil and the Lady (1930) 1 copy
Works of Tennyson (1884) 1 copy
Poemas 1 copy
Godiva 1 copy
Viviane 1 copy

Associated Works

Paradise Lost [Norton Critical Edition] (1667) — Contributor, some editions — 2,155 copies
One Hundred and One Famous Poems (1916) — Contributor, some editions — 1,879 copies
The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (2000) — Contributor — 1,227 copies
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (1995) — Contributor, some editions — 902 copies
The Nation's Favourite Poems (1996) — Contributor, some editions — 617 copies
English Poetry, Volume III: From Tennyson to Whitman (1909) — Contributor — 587 copies
The Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis (2001) — Contributor — 537 copies
A Treasury of the World's Best Loved Poems (1961) — Contributor — 516 copies
Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated (1940) — Contributor — 380 copies
Literature: The Human Experience (2006) — Contributor — 335 copies
In the Nursery (My Book House) (1932) — Contributor — 279 copies
Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985) — Contributor — 265 copies
From the Tower Window (My Book House) (1932) — Contributor — 258 copies
The Treasure Chest (My Book House) (1932) — Contributor — 253 copies
The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse (1983) — Contributor — 231 copies
The Mammoth Book of Arthurian Legends (1998) — Contributor — 189 copies
The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature (1998) — Contributor — 157 copies
The Faber Book of Beasts (1997) — Contributor — 136 copies
A Literary Christmas: An Anthology (2013) — Contributor — 124 copies
Dragons, Elves, and Heroes (1969) — Contributor — 122 copies
Major British Writers, Volumes I and II (1954) — Contributor — 121 copies
Poems of Early Childhood (Childcraft) (1923) — Contributor — 113 copies
The Standard Book of British and American Verse (1932) — Contributor — 110 copies
The Charge of the Light Brigade and Other Story Poems (1966) — Contributor — 110 copies
The Norton Book of Travel (1987) — Contributor — 109 copies
Project Solar Sail (1990) — Contributor — 98 copies
Storytelling and Other Poems (Childcraft) (1949) — Contributor — 89 copies
The Everyman Anthology of Poetry for Children (1994) — Contributor — 71 copies
A Book of Narrative Verse (1930) — Contributor — 61 copies
Doré's Illustrations for "Idylls of the King" (1995) — Contributor — 57 copies
Prose and Poetry for Appreciation (1934) — Contributor — 45 copies
The Magic Circle: Stories and People in Poetry (1952) — Contributor — 31 copies
Modern Arthurian Literature (1992) — Contributor — 30 copies
The Charge of the Light Brigade [1968 film] (1968) — Original poem — 29 copies
Angels of Darkness: Tales of Troubled and Troubling Women (1995) — Contributor — 27 copies
The Lakeland Poets: An Illustrated Collection (1991) — Contributor — 26 copies
Dark of the Moon: Poems of Fantasy and the Macabre (1947) — Contributor — 25 copies
A Skeleton At the Helm (2008) — Contributor — 25 copies
And the Darkness Falls (1946) — Contributor — 22 copies
AQA Anthology (2002) — Author, some editions — 19 copies
Masters of British Literature, Volume B (2007) — Contributor — 16 copies
Poems of Magic and Spells (1960) — Contributor — 14 copies
Classic Hymns & Carols (2012) — Contributor — 14 copies
English Narrative Poems (1909) — Contributor — 12 copies
An Adult's Garden of Bloomers (1966) — Contributor — 7 copies
Men and Women: The Poetry of Love (1970) — Contributor — 7 copies
Suspense: A Treasury for Young Adults (1966) — Contributor — 6 copies
Poetry anthology (2000) — Contributor, some editions — 6 copies
Selected Ballads (2002) — Contributor — 5 copies
Evergreen Stories (1998) — Contributor — 5 copies
La poesía inglesa románticos y victorianos — Contributor — 4 copies
Cricket Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 5, January 1978 — Contributor — 3 copies
A Chilling Collection (1979) — Contributor — 2 copies
Ferdinand Freiligraths Werke - Neue Pracht-Ausgabe (1900) — Contributor — 1 copy
Morte de Smudgie — Contributor — 1 copy
George Riddle's Readings — Contributor — 1 copy


17th century (80) 19th century (318) anthology (863) Arthurian (225) Arthurian legend (84) British (165) British literature (193) children's (85) classic (191) classics (315) collection (120) drama (97) English (185) English literature (283) English poetry (118) epic (72) fantasy (150) fiction (787) hardcover (110) Harvard Classics (74) horror (132) King Arthur (130) literary criticism (98) literature (851) mythology (83) non-fiction (204) own (105) poems (132) poetry (5,956) poetry anthology (69) read (104) reference (102) religion (83) short stories (208) Tennyson (108) textbook (90) to-read (455) unread (88) Victorian (154) writing (70)

Common Knowledge




I was surprised by some of the stories included in this poem about King Arthur and his knights. I found the language bogged me down in a few spots but it was mostly quite readable.
leslie.98 | 16 other reviews | Jun 27, 2023 |
Of the five suggested Tennyson poems to read, I finished The Dying Swan, In Memoriam, The Lady of Shalott, and The Lotos-Eaters. I skipped the Idylls of the King because I tried reading that some time ago, and quit. It's quite long, and I am doing the bear minimum of poetry reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed Tennyson's poems, especially The Lady of Shalott, The Lotus-Eaters, and In Memoriam. His poetic style is rhythmic and simple and pleasant, and his themes are emotional, as he deals with loss and grief and sadness. The Lady of Shalott is Medieval and The Lotus-Eaters is Greek mythology. Initially, I sensed he may be an orthodox Christian, but a little research explained how his faith was more emotional than rational, and I can definitely see that.

I am making a mental note that if I ever read more poetry, I will read Tennyson!
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GRLopez | 1 other review | May 9, 2023 |
When Tennyson's best friend Arthur Henry Hallam dies in 1833, the poet start working through his grief the only way he knows - by writing a poem. Or 133. He does not write them quickly - it will take 17 years for him to complete all the parts and publish the book. Neither does he write them in order - ever since the poem was published, a numerous English majors and literary researchers had spent their whole careers trying to parse what was written when and what was edited when why (Tennyson apparently had the habit of reusing notebooks so two passages in the same notebook may have been written in the same day or the latter piece may have been written 4 years later).

It is accepted to call In Memoriam a poem although a collection of connected poems also describes it well. Most of the 133 parts can be read both as separate poems and as a part of the whole -- the ones that do not are usually connected to one or more of the rest thus forming a somewhat connected longer part. But reading each canto on its own loses the big framework of the poem - and part of the reason for the poem to have endured until the 21st century is exactly that framework (the other reason of course is the mastery of the poetic language of course).

The poem takes place in 3 years - the 3 years after the death of Hallam, neatly separated with parts about Christmas and the death anniversary in each year. The timeline does not completely match the real one though - either the lived one or the one of the writing - poetic license always allows for that and Tennyson knew when he can get away with it. There are a lot of cantos which deal with Hallam's death, its influence on the living and his past. But interspersed with it (and often dominating the personal story) are musings about theology, faith, geology, the creation of Earth and pretty much anything else a Victorian may have been concerned with. Tennyson was widely read and used that in his poem - often reshuffling new ideas and putting them against the old orthodoxy. He never claimed to be a scientist but in some of these cantos he serves the same role as the modern popular scientists - take a complicated idea from a long book and present it in a way that can be understood easily and with comparisons to things people would recognize. Inevitably in that era, that meant putting it against the religious dogma. Which had caused the book to be looked at both as an atheist manifesto and as a defense of Christianity. The fact that both sides of the debate could see the book as one of theirs shows just how good Tennyson was in what he was trying to express.

Of course, there is also the topic of love - Hallam was about to marry Tennyson's sister when he died, another of his sisters closes the book with her own wedding. These parallels run through the whole book - death and rebirth of a type. So does the undying love of a poet for his friend. That part had made a lot of people uncomfortable through the years - if one chooses to read it this way, the poem can sound extremely homo-erotic in places. Short of a time machine, the exact relationship between the two friends will remain a mystery but all evidence and understanding of the period point to a friendship - a close one but without the undertone some of the readers may see into the poem. At the end it really does not matter - the poem is an elegy for a lost friend (and one that breaks all rules on how to write elegies - from the selected meter (Tennyson went for iambic tetrameter (ABBA stanzas)) to the lack of the usual good ending that elegies are supposed to have.

The edition I read (I've read parts of the poem before but I think this was the first time I read the whole of it in order) was the Third Norton Critical Edition. As usual, it has very little line by line analysis of the text on its own (it has some notes) but it adds a lot of critical apparatus by citing or excerpting existing critical material - some of which does close reading and others point to things in the poem you may have missed.

Erik Gray's Introduction is a mix of background information (useful to read before the poem) and a commentary on certain elements of the poem (not very desirable if you want to read the poem blind). I enjoyed it a lot more when I reread it at the end of the book - after I had read the whole book (often the NCEs have introductions to the book itself and not to the text they are presenting - this is not one of them).

I am always torn when I am reading these editions if I want to read the background and context section before I read the text itself or after. These are very useful in understanding what you are reading from the start - but they can also be spoilery. On the other hand, a contemporary reader may have been expected to have read/have knowledge of all of these - so the question remains open. In this case, I decided to go into the poem blind (just with the notes - from the poet, from his son or from the editor) and then go chase the backgrounds.

As the poem deals with pretty much any topic you can think of, the backgrounds section is as varied as that: Tennyson's son Hallam's Memoir of his father, the writings of the original Hallam, the poems about and for Hallam Tennyson wrote before the young man died, the usual suspects from the literary world (Catullus, Shakespeare's Sonnets, Milton's Lycidas and Shelley's Adonais) plus the scientific books which the poem borrows from and re-frames (Lyell's "Principles of Geology", Whewell's "The Nebular Hypothesis" and Chambers' "Vestiges of the Natural Order of Creation"). While the literary sources are as timeless as ever, the scientific ones sound naive (and often incorrect) these days - but then that was where science was at the time the poem existed and including the passages from them here help understand where some of Tennyson's weird ideas come from (and some are weird indeed - for our 21st century understanding of science).

The critical section starts with a selection of contemporary reviews (the last one, by George Eliot, seems to have been included mostly because of who wrote it and not because it adds something useful - plus it is the only one from 1855 - all the rest are from 1850 and 1851). Then it is a walk through time and Tennyson scholarship - covering different topics and using different approaches - in some ways as varied as the poem itself: A. C. Bradley talks about the structure of the poem in 1901, T. S Eliot talks about the poetical mastery of Tennyson in 1936, Eleanor Bustin Mattes talks about science and faith in the poem in 1951, Edgar Finley Shannon, Jr. explores the reception of the poem when it was published as part of his book on the reception of all the Tennyson poetry in 1827-1851 in his 1952 book (the excerpt here references a lot of the reviews in the first section of the critical materials - I wish I realized this is here earlier so that I had read that before the reviews as it gives some context the naked reviews are missing), Peter Hinchcliffe writes a very technical essay on elegies and why In Memoriam is not exactly one in 1983, Jeff Nunokawa discusses the representation of the homosexual homoerotic angle in 1991, Sarah Gates goes for the technical side of the poem again in 1999 with an analysis of the form, Aidan Day's essay on the grotesque from 2009 adds more to the science/faith conversation, Matthew Rowlinson stays on the science/history side in 2013 while exploring what is a type, Michelle Geric explores the representation of geology in the poem in 2017 (both literally (Tennyson talks about geology after all) and as a metaphor) and Michael D. Hurley closes the volume with an essay from 2018 about faith in the poem and its connection to the form of it.

Some of these essays (and excerpts) were easier to read than others. Some were mind-numbingly boring (especially the ones analyzing the form of the poem). They all added something to my understanding though - some pointed me to things I missed when I read the poem, some clarified confusing parts.

It is also telling that from the 10 essays/excerpts (I am excluding the one from 1952 looking at the contemporary reviews), 4 are from before 1991 and the earlier ones deal with the form of the poem more than with the meaning of the poem (the one about the meaning in that set tackles he science vs faith line). Editors need to make choices and current scholarship is always preferred but some older material may have bridged some of the more technical essays - some of them talk about older works which I had never heard of and that makes them even less penetrable.

The poem is worth reading - in any edition you can find it. The NCE is useful and exactly what you expect from it - but unless you are in the mood for some very scholarly essays, it may be a bit too technical - more than most NCEs I had read.
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1 vote
AnnieMod | 1 other review | Apr 10, 2023 |
SueJBeard | Feb 14, 2023 |



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Florence Harrison Illustrator
A.T. Quiller-Couch Introduction
Arthur Waugh Introduction, Editor
George Barker Foreword
Gustave Doré Illustrator
Ruth Padel Editor
A. F. Bellows Illustrator
F. B. Schell Illustrator
J. D. Woodward Illustrator
Mick Imlah Editor
Mrs. Andrew Lang Introduction
Norman Little Illustrator
Norman Ault Illustrator
Robert Ball Illustrator
Lynd Ward Illustrator
William T. Vlymen Editor and notes
G.M. Richards Illustrator
James Archer Cover artist
Payne Jennings Photographer
Charles Keeping Illustrator
Bernadette Watts Illustrator
Kingsley Hart Introduction
Cesare Dapino Translator
Bertha Stuart Cover designer
Everard Hopkins Illustrator
Allen Garns Illustrator
G. C. Macaulay Editor, Introduction
Alice Provenson Illustrator
Louis Untermeyer Editor & Introduction
Martin Provensen Illustrator
Sir Herbert Warren Introduction
F. J. Rowe Editor
Herbert Warren Introduction
Eleanor Vere Boyle Illustrator
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T. S. Eliot Introduction
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