Alfred Tennyson: A Literary Life by Leonee Ormond

By Leonee Ormond

Throughout his lengthy operating lifestyles, Tennyson used to be experimenting with new types and matters. generally learn in a variety of disciplines, he responsed to a few of the personalities, occasions and discoveries of the Victorian age. nonetheless broadly considered as an apologist for the 'establishment', Tennyson was once continuously an intruder. Scourged through reviewers, and haunted via his personal anxious disposition, Tennyson persevered years of melancholy. even if the tide grew to become in 1850 Tennyson remained a stern critic of his contemporaries.

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At Cambridge, Tennyson was obsessed with a classical theme which had fascinated him since childhood, the story of the city of Troy whose destruction was contained within its creation. According to legend, Neptune and Apollo helped King Laomedon to build Troy, Apollo creating walls through the power of music. When the king refused to pay the two gods, they cursed his city. Various punishments fell upon him, and the city was eventually sacked by the Greeks during the reign of his son, Priam. The idea of building city walls through the power of Apollo's music suggested to Tennyson a parallel between the lyrical creation of a dream city, and the act of creating a poem.

This added fuel to his dislike of the poems themselves. It has been suggested that Croker's violent reaction stemmed from anger at one particular poem, 'To Christopher North'. Croker, however, had not needed such a pretext. Instinctively, he detected a suppressed eroticism or even erotic evasion in the volume. Quoting 'Oenone', for example, he introduced a pause after the arrival of Juno, Pallas Athene and Venus, at 'Naked they came', and then referred to the lush description of flowers and plants which follows: It would be unjust to the ingenuus pudor of the author not to observe the art with which he has veiled this ticklish interview behind such luxuriant trellis-work, and it is obvious that it is for our special sakes he has entered into these local details, because if there was one thing which 'mother Ida' knew better than another, it must have been her own bushes and brakes.

The end of the Napoleonic wars brought about a collapse in the price of corn, caused by the return of cheap imports from Europe, and this in turn created hardship among the agricultural community. At the same time, industrial expansion was drawing workers from the land into the overcrowded, insanitary and disease-ridden towns. Efforts by groups of workers to gain improved wages and conditions through collective bargaining (the start of the trade union movement) were declared illegal. It seemed impossible to redress the social and political inequalities of the time through a system of government that favoured the landowning elite.

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