Tennyson To strive, to seek, to find by John Batchelor A Review:

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria's favourite poet, commanded a wider readership than any other of his time. His ascendancy was neither the triumph of pure genius nor an accident of history:he skilfully crafted his own career and his relationships with his audience. Fame and recognition came, lavishly and in abundance, but the hunger for more never left him. Like many successful Victorians, he was a provincial determined to make good in the capital while retaining his regional strengths. One of eleven children, he remained close to his extended family and never lost his Lincolnshire accent.Resolving never to be anything except 'a poet', he wore his hair long, smoked incessantly and sported a cloak and wide-brimmed Spanish hat.

Tennyson ranged widely in his poetry, turning his interests in geology, evolution and Arthurian legend into verse, but much of his work relates to his personal life. The tragic loss of Arthur Hallam, a brilliant friend and fellow Apostle at Cambridge, fed into some of his most successful and best-known poems. It took Tennyson seventeen years to complete his great elegy for Hallam, In Memoriam, a work which established his fame and secured his appointment as Poet Laureate.

The poet who wrote The Lady of Shalott and The Charge of the Light Brigade has become a permanent part of our culture. This enjoyable and thoughtful new biography shows him as a Romantic as well as a Victorian, exploring both the poems and Tennyson's attempts at play writing, as well as the pressures of his age and the personal relationships that made the man.

John Batchelor has made a stellar attempt to write not only a biography covering Tennyson's life (1809-1892) he has included some fascinating reading sources published throughout the last thirty years! Batchelor takes a different view of Tennyson's life covering aspects of not only the much written and well-known topics such as his difficult relationship with his father George Clayton Tennyson (1778-1831) but sheds light on Tennyson's sibling and writing relationship with older brother Charles Tennyson Turner (1808-79) whom he was published with early in life just before going off to Cambridge together. Batchelor writes with tenderness and respect about Alfred Tennyson's life especially when it comes to his familial relationships with his grandparents and aunts including quotations from correspondence and painting portraits as well.

When it comes to Alfred's later years including his life with wife Emily, her side of the family (The Sellwoods), their children, and even grandchildren; it's all here in a well written and engaging account of the greatest poet of the nineteenth century and the Victorian era Alfred Lord Tennyson. He was an introspective man who loved nature, who felt at one with it, who loved words, his family, and who cherished his friends all his life. So, if anyone is attempting to discover who the man Alfred was before and after becoming Poet Laureate, I urge you to read John Batchelor's 'Tennyson: To strive, to seek, to find.'
*photographic evidence that Alfred Tennyson wore other colors besides black!

Lady Emily Tennyson with her boys Hallam (left) Lionel (right) 1862 by Jeffreys, housed at National Portrait Gallery

Photograph of Alfred Tennyson with the boys by Julia Margaret Cameron around the same year

Please feel free to leave comments,


Hermes said…
Good review and I love the photographs
Kevin Marsh said…
Some great photo's, boys dressed as girls! Hee hee!
Tennyson remains a favourite of mine, not only for his work but also his great love for nature and life. An interesting article with some useful information on further reading.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Hermes and Kevin, thank you both for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. Happy New Year!

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