He received his early education from his father, attended Louth Grammar School, and in due course proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, where in 1829 he won the chancellor's medal by a poem in blank verse entitled “Timbuctoo.” As early as 1827 he had published in conjunction with his brother Charles “Poems by Two Brothers,” but his literary career may be said to date from 1830, when he published a volume entitled “Poems, Chiefly Lyrical.” Its success was sufficient to encourage the poet to prepare a second collection, which appeared in 1833, and contained such poems as “A Dream of Fair Women,” “The Palace of Art,” “Œnone,” “The Lady of Shalott,” and others.
At this time he sustained a great loss in the death of his friend Arthur Hallam. It was not till 1842 that he again appealed to the public with a selection of his poems in two volumes, and it is from this time that we find his work beginning to receive wide recognition. The collection then issued included “Morte d'Arthur,” “Locksley Hall,” “The May Queen,” and “The Two Voices,” all of which, it was almost at once acknowledged, entitled him to rank high among poets. His reputation was more than sustained by the works that immediately followed. These were: “The Princess, a Medley” (1847); “In Memoriam” (1850), written in memory of his friend Arthur Hallam; and the “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington” (1852).
The latter was his first great poem after receiving the laureateship (1850) upon the death of Wordsworth. Thereafter hardly a year passed without his adding some gem to our language. “Maud and Other Poems” was published in 1855; “Idylls of the King” followed in 1858; “Enoch Arden and Other Poems,” in 1864; “The Holy Grail and Other Poems,” in 1869; “The Window; or the Song of the Wrens,” in 1870; and “Gareth and Lynette,” in 1872, the latter volume, which included the “Last Tournament,” completing the series of poems known as the “Idylls of the King.” In 1855 the University of Oxford conferred on Tennyson the honorary degree of D.C.L., and in 1869 the fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, elected him an honorary fellow.
So long ago as 1833 he had had printed for private circulation a poem entitled “The Lover's Tale”; in 1879 this was republished, together with a sequel entitled “The Golden Supper.” In the following year appeared “Ballads and Other Poems.” Among his later compositions are the dramas “Queen Mary” (1875); “Harold” (1876); and “The Cup.” The latter was successfully produced by Mr. Irving at the Lyceum Theater in 1881, as had also been “Queen Mary.” “The Falcon,” another drama, was produced by Mr. and Mrs. Kendal in 1882, and “The Promise of May” was brought out at the Globe Theater the same year. “The Cup” and “The Falcon” were published as a single volume in 1884, and in the same year appeared the historical drama of “Becket.”
In 1885 appeared “Tiresias and Other Poems”; in 1886 “Locksley Hall: Sixty Years After,” which also included “The Promise of May”; in 1889 “Demeter and Other Poems,” and in 1892 his last book, “The Death of Œnone: Akbar's Dream and Other Poems.” Tennyson was raised to the peerage in 1884 as Baron Tennyson of Aldworth, Sussex, and Freshwater, Isle of Wight. He died in Aldworth, England, Oct. 6, 1892, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Collier's New Encyclopedia, 1921