Searching for Alfred in the Shadow of Tennyson
Poet Ruth Padel goes in search of the real Tennyson, exploring ways in which his legacy is felt today - in music, poetry and fiction.
To many people today Alfred, Lord Tennyson is an iconic image of the Victorian era. We know him as Queen Victorian's Poet Laureate, an imposing figure with a beard and cape and the author of long poems often based on myths and legends. But this image hides other facets of Tennyson and obscures the fact that many creative artists today are drawing on his work.
In this programme the poet and writer Ruth Padel goes in search of the real Tennyson, championing him as a poet for our times as well as his own. In conversation with figures as diverse as the poet and former Laureate Andrew Motion, the novelists Andrew O' Hagan and Adam Foulds, the poet Jo Shapcott, the rock musician Dani Filth and academics Robert Douglas-Fairhurst and Angela Leighton, she hears how the figure of Tennyson has been an inspiration to them.
Ruth also investigates the real Alfred behind the image of grandeur. She finds our about his preoccupation with what he called the "black blood" of his family, whose members were prone to break-downs, alcoholism and madness. And she hears how these concerns led to Tennyson's ability to articulate neurosis and loss in his work even though, as Poet Laureate, he became an establishment figure.
This programme was first broadcast in 2009 to mark the 200th anniversary of Tennyson's birth.