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Who succeeded William Wordsworth as the Poet Laureate?

November 19th

alfred_tennyson_youngNovember 19, 1850 — Victorian poet Alfred Tennyson became the British Poet Laureate today, succeeding William Wordsworth. Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Leigh Hunt had also been considered.

He held the position until his own death in 1892, the longest tenure of any laureate before or since.

Born on August 6, 1809, he was the fourth of 12 children, and at the age of 12 he wrote a 6,000-line epic poem. His father, the Reverend George Tennyson, tutored his sons in classical and modern languages, but also suffered frequent mental breakdowns that were exacerbated by alcoholism. 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. Tennyson left home in 1827 to attend Trinity College, and the same year, he and his brother Charles published Poems by Two Brothers.

Tennyson is known to have excelled at penning short lyrics, such as “Break, Break, Break,” “Tears, Idle Tears,” and “Crossing the Bar.” Much of his verse was based on classical mythological themes, such as Ulysses. One of his best-known works, “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” is a dramatic tribute to the British cavalrymen involved in an ill-advised charge on October 25, 1854, during the Crimean War. Other esteemed works include “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington,” and “Ode Sung at the Opening of the International Exhibition.”

Virginia Woolf wrote a satirical farce called Freshwater, showing several artists from the late Victorian era including Tennyson, Woolf’s great-aunt, the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, painter George Frederic Watts and his young bride, the actress Ellen Terry.


Words of Wisdom

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;

— From “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” by Alfred Tennyson

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