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ALFRED TENNYSON was born, if the usual statement is correct, on August 6, 1809, at Somersby, in Lincolnshire, England ; but the date in the parish register is August 5. His father, Dr. George Clayton Tennyson, commonly called “the old Doctor," was rector of the parish, and had twelve children, of whom Alfred was the third boy ; he was a learned man, and is said to have taken some share in the education of his sons. Tennyson's mother had greater influence over him, in forming his character; in his verse he more than once bore tribute to her and drew scenes from his home-life. His two elder brothers, Frederick and Charles, were both poets of note in afterlife. Charles, one year older than himself, was his favorite, and his constant companion; they first attended a little school in the neighborhood, and then went to the Louth Grammar School, not far away, Charles in 1815 and Alfred in 1816 ; each was less than eight years old at entrance, and Charles left when he was thirteen and Alfred when he was eleven. This ended their schooling, and in the youthful years that passed before they went to college they appear to have lived a life of their own together at home. The whole family of boys at the rectory are roughly described as “running about from one place to another,” known to everybody, and with ways of their own; “ they all wrote verses, they never had any pocketmoney, they took long walks at night-time, and they were decidedly exclusive "-such is the comprehensive character that a contemporary neighbor gave them. Certainly Charles and Alfred wrote a good deal of verse together from the time when the latter showed his brother some lines written on a slate when the rest of the family had gone to church ; and in 1827, the year before they left home for college, the two published a volume, called “Poems, By Two Brothers," through a bookseller at Louth, who gave them £20 for it, of which amount a small portion was taken out in books. The sum of Tennyson's boyhood, then, is that he was well brought up in a cultivated home amid a large family, and had some outside schooling at first ; but he grew, in close companionship with a favorite brother of the same tastes, to be very
fond of nature and of books, and to express himself very easily and fully in writing verses. The whole family kept to themselves, perhaps, but no more than was natural in the circumstances of their position in a small rural community ; but Tennyson himself, who was always a lover of privacy and solitude, was shy and retiring more than his brothers, and formed a habit of reserve that continued through life.
In 1828 the brothers went up to Cambridge and entered at Trinity College. There Tennyson found Arthur Hallam, who, though two years younger, had come up at the same time, and the two formed the friendship which is now one of the landmarks of English poetry, and is commemorated in Tennyson's greatest work, “In Memoriam. They competed for the Chancellor's prize in poetry, and Tennyson won it, in 1829; in 1830 Tennyson published a volume in London, “Poems, Chiefly Lyrical," and made a journey to the Pyrenees with his friend ; in 1831, owing to his father's death, he left Cambridge, without taking a degree, and in 1832 he published another volume, entitled “Poems."
These two early volumes, though the personal friends of Tennyson supported him with their praise and belief in him, met with enough hostile criticism to put an end to his publishing for some years. He was very sensitive to what was said of him, and he said himself, “The
Reviews stopped me.” At the same time he met with his first severe experience of life ; in 1833, Arthur Hallam, who was travelling with his father, the historian, died suddenly in Vienna ; the shock to Tennyson was a great one, and the poem mentioned above, “In Memoriam,” expresses his emotions and the thoughts inspired by them on the occasion of this bereavement, though he was long in writing out the work, and it was not published till seventeen years after the event. It is plain that Arthur Hallam's death closed the page of youth in the poet's life.
For ten years after the issue of the volume of 1832, Tennyson remained silent. They were years of work, nevertheless, and he was devoting himself to the art he had chosen to follow, and becoming a master of it. His life does not seem to have been happy; he had scanty means, and he moved about from place to place in the country or in lodgings in London ; but he had the best of friends, if they were few, and was a much-prized companion to men like Carlyle, Thackeray, Fitzgerald, in whose letters glimpses of him are found, and to others less widely known, a circle of intimate and intellectual associates. In 1842 he again published a volume of poems, and from this dates his fame; in 1850 he became the acknowledged head of English poetry, when he published “In Memoriam," and was made poet-laureate. In the same year he married, and in 1853, soon after the birth of his son Hallam, he settled at Farringford, in the Isle of Wight, which is the place that will always be thought of and visited as his home, though he at a later time possessed another estate at Aldworth, in Sussex. For the rest of his long life he continued to write poetry-idyls, dramas, lyrics, poems of every sort. The most important of his longer works is “ The Idylls of the King," which tells the story of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table; but“Maud," a lyrical love-drama, was, perhaps, his own favorite, and from it he used to read to his guests; and “ The Princess"