TS Eliot said Alfred, Lord Tennyson had "the finest ear of any English poet since Milton", while lines from his Crimean War poem The Charge of the Light Brigade are indelibly lodged in the minds of even the most poetically resistant.
Tennyson was born in Lincoln in 1809, as the Napoleonic Wars raged in Europe, the fourth of 12 children. As a student at Cambridge he was awarded the Chancellor's Gold Medal in 1829 and published his first solo collection at 21. His second collection in 1833, however, was met with such criticism that he did not publish for ten years. But his third was successful and included Ulysses, a rally call for one last heroic action.
In 1850 Tennyson published In Memoriam AHH. Dedicated to his late friend Arthur Hallam, it was a favourite of Queen Victoria, who said the book helped to comfort after Albert's death. With Victoria's patronage, Tennyson was acclaimed as the greatest poet of his day and was appointed Poet Laureate, succeeding William Wordsworth. Tennyson moved to Farringford on the Isle of Wight in 1853, and from there he wrote Maud, The Charge of the Light Brigade and Crossing the Bar. In 1884 the Royals granted Tennyson a baronetcy. He died in 1892 and was buried at Westminster Abbey. A memorial can be found in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge.
Ulysses was said to be John F Kennedy's favourite poem, and in the last ever episode of US sitcom Frasier in 2004, the eponymous psychiatrist announced his farewell by reciting the poem to his radio audience.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The Nation's Favourite Poet
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