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Friday, April 9, 2010

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) was the fourth of twelve children born to a clergyman.  He attended Trinity College where he made acquaintences with such men as William Thackeray, William Gladstone, and Edward Fitzgerald.  Nevertheless, his best friend was Arthur Henry Hallam, whom he memorialized in the poem In Memoriam after Hallam's death in 1833.  In the 1830s and 1840s he wrote poems such as Mariana, Locksley Hall, Ulysses, and The Lady of Shalott.  His poetry was a favorite of Prince Albert's, which probably led to his being named Poet Laureate of England by Queen Victoria after the death of William Wordsworth.  His later poetry included The Charge of the Light Brigade, a patriotic piece detailing a battle of the Crimean War and Enoch Arden, which tells the story of a sailor thought to be dead that returns home to find his wife has remarried.  Tennyson died about two months after his 83rd birthday and was buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.

Tennyson wrote Idylls of the King over a period of more than fifty years.  "The Passing of Arthur" was written shortly after the death of Hallam, and he would continue to write and edit the poem until its final publication in 1885.  A lifetime fascination with the Arthurian legend, particularly as presented by Sir Thomas Malory, fostered the work.  The work is infused with Victorian morals, which was Tennyson's attempt to modernize the legend.

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