“I must lose myself in action, lest I wither in despair.” — Tennyson
Alfred Tennyson was born on this day in Somersby, Lincolnshire in 1809. Today is the 204th anniversary of his birth.
He was the fourth of 12 children born to the Reverend and Mrs. Tennyson. He began writing poetry as a child and by 12 he’d written a 6,000 line epic. He and his brothers were home schooled by their father in the classics and modern languages. But Reverend Tennyson “suffered from depression and was notoriously absentminded” [TheLiteraryNetwork.com] problems “that were exacerbated by alcoholism.” [Poets.org] The family struggled under Rev. Tennyson’s influence;
One of Tennyson’s brothers had violent quarrels with his father, a second was later confined to an insane asylum, and another became an opium addict. [Poets.org]
I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.
But who shall so forecast the years
And find in loss a gain to match?
Or reach a hand thro’ time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?
Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d,
Let darkness keep her raven gloss:
Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,
To dance with death, to beat the ground,
Than that the victor Hours should scorn
The long result of love, and boast,
`Behold the man that loved and lost,
But all he was is overworn.’[exerpt from In Memorium A.H.H. , Click Here to read the whole poem]
At the age of 41, Tennyson had established himself as the most popular poet of the Victorian era. The money from his poetry (at times exceeding 10,000 pounds per year) allowed him to purchase a house in the country and to write in relative seclusion. … In 1859, Tennyson published the first poems of Idylls of the Kings, which sold more than 10,000 copies in one month. In 1884, he accepted a peerage, becoming Alfred Lord Tennyson. [Ibid]