Happy Birthday Alfred Lord Tennyson! Victorian Poet Laureate

6th August 2017
The topic of Victorian poetry and its most famous exponent, Alfred Lord Tennyson, is not perhaps the subject on everyone’s lips on a sunny day in August. But it is a topic of great fascination for all that, and a rewarding one for study.
old book cover of Tennyson's verse
Tennyson was the celebrity and star of his age. But often a reluctant one. It was a perpetual source of vexation to him that ‘fans’ would insist on camping out in the area of his home hoping to catch a glimpse of him on his long walks through the countryside or by the sea. If we wish to understand the Victorians, therefore, and what made them tick, we really need to know a little about their most celebrated voice.

So perhaps on this his 208th birthday, it’s time to find a shady nook beneath a tree and read a few lines or glance at one or two of the many amazing paintings and illustrations that his work has inspired. Where to start? Here are some leads for investigation …

When the poet met the Queen

They met quite a few times, in fact, according to her diaries.
old photo of the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson with beard and in large hat
Tennyson in his prime.
old photo of Queen Victoria at desk
Queen Victoria at her desk.

Tennyson’s vocabulary

Do you lie awake at night worrying about some of the unusual or archaic words used in poems such as The Lady of Shalott? Well … even if you don’t, here is a handy guide to most of them.
illustration of woman in medieval garb, at loom, standing
Howard Pyle illustration from 1881 – The Mirror Breaking.

Illustrations in the works of Alfred Lord Tennyson

The poet’s work has been extensively illustrated over the years, and was especially admired by the Pre-Raphaelites. Find out where and when here.
painting shows lady in medival clothing, red skirt
Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale 1913 painting inspired by ‘Idylls of the King.’
linking banner with red text on black background

Home sweet home

Discover the newly restored home of the Tennysons, the poet and his family, at Farringford House.
old colour print of Victorian building set in gardens with trees and lawn
"Where far from smoke and noise of town,
I watch the twilight falling brown,
All round a careless order'd garden,"
Authored by Robert Stephen Parry

Tennyson's poem - The Lady of Shalott.

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Farringford House - home of Alfred Tennyson restored
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When Queen Victoria met the poet Tennyson.
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Queen Victoria, and the men who loved her
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The places where Queen Victoria lived - a tour.
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