Poet Laureate Alfred, lord Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, FRS was born 6 August 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire. He was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during much of Queen Victoria’s reign and remains one of the most popular poets in the English language.
Tennyson excelled at penning short lyrics, such as “In the Valley of Cauteretz”, “Break, Break, Break”, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, “Tears, Idle Tears” and “Crossing the Bar”. Much of his verse was based on classical mythological themes, such as Ulysses, although In Memoriam A.H.H. was written to commemorate his best friend Arthur Hallam, a fellow poet and fellow student at Trinity College, Cambridge, who was engaged to Tennyson’s sister, but died from a brain haemorrhage before they could marry. Tennyson also wrote some notable blank verse including Idylls of the King, “Ulysses,” and “Tithonus.” During his career, Tennyson attempted drama, but his plays enjoyed little success.
He became Poet Laureate After Wordsworth’s death in 1850, and Samuel Rogers’ refusal, and was appointed to the position of Poet Laureate, which he held until his own death in 1892, by far the longest tenure of any laureate before or since. Queen Victoria was an ardent admirer of Tennyson’s work, and in 1884 created him Baron Tennyson, of Aldworth in the County of Sussex and of Freshwater in the Isle of Wight. Tennyson initially declined a baronetcy in 1865 and 1868 (when tendered by Disraeli), finally accepting a peerage in 1883 at Gladstone’s earnest solicitation. He took his seat in the House of Lords on 11 March 1884 and became the first person to be raised to a British Peerage for his writing. Thomas Edison also made sound recordings of Tennyson reading his own poetry, late in his life. They include recordings of The Charge of the Light Brigade, and excerpts from “The splendour falls” (from The Princess), “Come into the garden” (from Maud), “Ask me no more”, “Ode on the death of the Duke of Wellington”, “Charge of the Heavy Brigade”, and “Lancelot and Elaine”.
Towards the end of his life Tennyson revealed that his “religious beliefs also defied convention, leaning towards agnosticism and pandeism” Tennyson recorded in his Diary “I believe in Pantheism of a sort.” His son’s biography confirms that Tennyson was not an orthodox Christian, noting that Tennyson praised Giordano Bruno and Spinoza on his deathbed, saying of Bruno, “His view of God is in some ways mine,” in 1892.
Tennyson continued writing into his eighties. He died on 6 October 1892 at Aldworth, aged 83. He was buried at Westminster Abbey. A memorial was erected in All Saints’ Church, Freshwater. His last words were; “Oh that press will have me now!”.He was succeeded as 2nd Baron Tennyson by his son, Hallam, who produced an authorised biography of his father in 1897, and was later the second Governor-General of Australia.