Tennyson Seven Essays

Tennyson Seven Essays-18
After the loss of Hallam, Tennyson became infatuated with Rosa Baring of Harrington Hall, a rich, haughty, trifling woman, whose rejection led him to write his great dramatic monologue (1855), than which there is no poem in the language more rich and strange.

After the loss of Hallam, Tennyson became infatuated with Rosa Baring of Harrington Hall, a rich, haughty, trifling woman, whose rejection led him to write his great dramatic monologue (1855), than which there is no poem in the language more rich and strange.(That the monologue should have ended with his deranged hero speaking of “The blood-red blossom of war with a heart of fire” must have given the poets of the Great War an eerie shudder.) When he married Emily Sellwood, another Somersby woman, who would become his agent, muse, and secretary, he made an inspired choice, though one observer was convinced that she immured him in “the sultry, perfumed atmosphere of luxury and homage…” Drawing on Ann Thwaite’s marvelous biography of Emily, Batchelor paints a lively portrait of this devout, talented, enterprising woman.

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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.

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.

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.

Tennyson Seven Essays

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.The historian James Anthony Froude spoke for many of his generation when he confessed how “Spiritually [Tennyson] lives in all our minds (in mine he has lived for nearly forty years) in forms imperishable as diamonds which time and change have no power over.” The literary critic George Saintsbury corroborated this when he observed how “no age of poetry can be called the age of one man with such critical accuracy as the later Nineteenth Century is, with us, the Age of Tennyson.” What makes John Batchelor’s new life of the poet so admirable is that while it recreates the Victorian Tennyson with meticulous care, it also attends to those aspects of the poet’s work that transcend his historical context.There are not many good biographies of Tennyson—Robert Bernard Martin’s (1980) is an exception—but Batchelor’s life can now be accounted the best.Then, again, another brother would always introduce himself to guests by declaring, “Hello, I am Septimus: I am the morbid Tennyson.” As for Tennyson himself, he not only feared madness but longed for death.As his wife told his son Hallam when engaged in writing his father’s biography, Tennyson, terrified of his father’s rages, often ‘went out through the black night, and threw himself on a grave in the churchyard, praying to be beneath the sod himself.” Then, again, the poet confessed that “In my youth I knew much greater unhappiness than I have known in later life.Written with great learning and unusual grace, it will spur new interest in a poet who has much to say to our own contemporaries. George Clayton Tennyson, the eldest son, had been forced into the Church against his will after his father decided to make his youngest son, Charles his heir.Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) was born at Somersby rectory, Lincolnshire into a rancorous, divided family. The resentment this bred in Tennyson’s father never went away.It exacerbated his epilepsy and turned him into a violent drunkard.Indeed, Tennyson would often have to flee the rectory to flee his father’s drunken rages.The smallness and emptiness of life sometimes overwhelmed me.” For anyone intent on making poetry his life’s work, this was useful misery. “The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him.At that point, he’s in business…” After attending Louth Grammar School, Tennyson went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he joined the Apostles and met the dazzling Etonian, Arthur Hallam, whose friendship and support would be crucial to his development as a poet.


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