Author(s): Alfred Tennyson
Often parodied as a complacent patriarch of the Victorian establishment, laureate to the royal court and the Queen's favourite living poet, Tennyson was in fact a sensitive, shy and complex character whose early life was dominated by family drama, financial ruin, melancholia and unhappy love. His first love was a man who died young, his second a woman who rejected him. His father was a depressive alcoholic, one of his brothers went mad, and the 'black blood of the Tennysons' was notorious in the family's home county of Lincolnshire. Many of his poems reflect these themes. Though capable of rendering rapture and delight in the most exquisite verse, in another mode Tennyson is the brother in spirit of Poe and Baudelaire, the author of dark, passionate and even morbid reveries. A master of the short, intense lyric, he can also be sardonic, humorous, voluptuous, earthy and satirical. Deeply read in the classics, a metrical virtuoso who treasured poetic tradition, his work nevertheless engages directly with the great issues of his time: industrialization, democracy, the crisis of faith, scientific progress, women's rights and social problems.