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Two hundred years of Tennyson


Special Collections is celebrating the bicentennial of the birth of Alfred, Lord Tennyson this month with a small exhibit in our lobby area on the first floor of the library.

Alfred Tennyson, first Baron Tennyson (born August 6, 1809), was the preeminent English poet of the 19th century.  His writing career spans nearly the entire Victorian period and reflects much of the social, intellectual, and theological turmoil of the era.  Tennyson tackled such subjects as women’s education, domestic relations, patriotism, and the tension between religious faith and doubt.

Alfred was the fourth of 12 children of a Lincolnshire clergyman; his elder brother Charles was also an esteemed poet.  Alfred attended Cambridge University, publishing his first collections of poems while still a student.  He published few poems during the 1830’s, finally bowing to pressure from publishers for new work in the 1840’s.  Tennyson published his greatest work, In Memoriam, in May 1850.  At the end of the same year, Tennyson was appointed England’s Poet Laureate, succeeding William Wordsworth to the post.  Besides the patriotic and nationalistic verse he wrote in the office of laureate, he continued to write poems and plays, including poetry inspired by Arthurian legends. Queen Victoria, an admirer of Tennyson’s poems, offered him a baronetcy several times (which he finally accepted in 1884).  Tennyson died at the age of 84 in October 1892.

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