Tennyson Seven Essays

Tennyson Seven Essays-83
Still, he never ceased to take his father’s part against his paternal grandfather and uncle, both of whom disdained the Somersby Tennysons.Moreover, the distress that the patriarchal dispossession caused Tennyson’s mother, Elizabeth and his other siblings drove him to join “the men of many acres” whom he otherwise despised.

In the writing of , Tennyson would take up three of his most abiding themes: loss, change, and transcendence.

Yet, while these cantos were still evolving, he would also publish a third book of verse in 1842, which included some of his greatest poems: “Break, break, break,” “Ulysses,” “Morte d’Arthur,” “Locksley Hall,” and “Tithonous.” Hallam’s loss might have been a bane to his personal life but it was a boon to his poetry.

For Henry James, everything about this consummate poet was “a thousand miles away from American manufacture.” However, the dark side to his steely dedication to his art was a tendency towards solipsism.

As Batchelor remarks, “even with Arthur Hallam, it can often seem that what Tennyson loved was not Arthur himself, but Arthur’s love of Tennyson: his own image and his own genius as reflected in Arthur’s loyal admiration.” Batchelor also quotes the strictures of Edward Lear, who remarked in his friend “the anomaly of high souled & philosophic writings combined with slovenliness, selfishness, & morbid folly.” In this light, Batchelor’s Tennyson can sometimes remind one of that unforgettable ‘monster’ that Ted Hughes shared with his readers in “Famous Poet,” behind whose eyes one can see nothing “But the haggard stony exhaustion of a near-/Finished variety artist.” Certainly, a good deal of Tennyson’s later work was given over to writing narrative verse of questionable merit— (1864) comes to mind–composed to satisfy the enormous demand for his work on the part of a public flattered that their Laureate should wish to please them.

The son of the Whig historian Henry Hallam, Arthur was handsome, brilliant, and a budding poet in his own right.

That he saw his young friend’s genius from the start gave Tennyson precisely the confidence he needed to turn his considerable talents to account.

Then, again, with loyal friends, Tennyson could be oddly cold and aloof—Edward Fitzgerald was made to endure this especially after fame made Tennyson more than usually grand—but in his favor it must be said that after Thackeray handed in his dinner pail, Tennyson took in his orphaned daughters.

Indeed, on walks along Hampstead Heath, he would often confide in Annie Thackeray about his early poverty, self-doubts, and loneliness, proof that the adulated Laureate never entirely outgrew the unhappy boy from Somersby.

When Hallam’s father asked for a reminiscence, the poet replied that he had “attempted to draw up a memoir of his life and character, but I failed to do him justice.

I hope to be able at a future period to concentrate whatever powers I may possess on the construction of some tribute …” Seventeen years later, the poet released (1850), a collection of 133 lyrics, which, taken together, constitute his far-ranging meditation on the meaning not only of his friend’s life and death, but of his entire age’s preoccupation with what Newman called the “great .” For James Knowles, the founder of the Metaphysical Society and a good friend of Tennyson, the poem, confronting as it did the desolation of unbelief, “was the cry of the whole human race.” That two of the most eminent of Victorians—the Queen herself and Benjamin Disraeli—had a special attachment to the poem underscored the deep chord it struck with Tennyson’s contemporaries.


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