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Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892)


Death of the Old Year
The Lotos-Eaters

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 1850, and after William Wordsworth he is one of the most popular English poets. He wrote a number of phrases that have become commonplace in the English language, including: "nature, red in tooth and claw", "better to have loved and lost", "Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die", and "My strength is as the strength of ten ,/ Because my heart is pure".

He was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, a rector's son and fourth of 11 children. His father, George Clayton Tennyson ensured his children were well educated, as a result Tennyson and two of his elder brothers were writing poetry in their teens, and a collection of poems by all three was published locally when Alfred was only 17.

In the spring of 1831, his father died, and he had to leave Cambridge before taking his degree. He returned to the rectory, where he was permitted to live for another six years, and shared responsibility for his widowed mother and the family.

In 1833, Tennyson published his second book of poetry, which included his well-known poem; The Lady of Shalott. The volume met heavy criticism, which so discouraged Tennyson that he did not publish again for 10 more years, although he continued to write.

Tennyson and his family later moved to Essex. An unwise investment in an ecclesiastical wood-carving enterprise soon led to the loss of much of the family fortune. He then moved to London.

After William Wordsworth's death in 1850, Tennyson succeeded to the position of Poet Laureate, which he held until his own death in 1892, by far the longest tenure of any laureate before or since.

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