Alfred Tennyson

Essay by Anonymous UserHigh School, 12th gradeA-, January 1996

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Alfred Tennyson was born on August 6th, 1809, at Somersby, Lincolnshire, fourth of twelve children of George and Elizabeth Tennyson. Tennyson, said to be the best poet of the Victorian era and his poetry will be discussed in this essay.

Tennyson had a lifelong fear of mental illness, because several men in his family had a mild form of epilepsy, which then was thought of as a shameful disease. His father and brother Arthur made their epilepsy worse by excessive drinking. His brother Edward had to be put in a mental institution after 1833, and he spent a few weeks himself under doctor's care in 1843. In the late twenties his father's physical and mental condition got worse, and he became paranoid, abusive, and violent.

In 1827 Tennyson escaped his troubled home when he followed his two older brothers to Trinity College, Cambridge, where his teacher was William Whewell.

Because each of them had won university prizes for poetry the Tennyson brothers became well known at Cambridge. In 1829 The Apostles, an undergraduate club, invited him to join. The members of this group would remain Tennyson's friends all his life.

Arthur Hallam was the most important of these friendships. Hallam, a brilliant Victorian young man was recognized by his peers as having unusual promise. He and Tennyson knew each other only four years, but their intense friendship had a major influence on the poet. On a visit to Somersby, Hallam met and later became engaged to Emily Tennyson, and the two friends looked forward to a life-long companionship. Hallam died from illness in 1833 at the age of 22 and shocked Tennyson profoundly. His grief lead to most of his best poetry, including 'In Memoriam', 'The Passing of Arthur', 'Ulysses', and 'Tithonus'.

Since Tennyson was always sensitive to criticism,