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As the principal narrative poem of nineteenth-century England, Tennyson's Idylls of the King is an ambitious and widely influential reworking of the Arthurian legends of the Middle Ages, which have provided a great body of myth and symbol to writers, painters, and composers for the past hundred years. Tennyson's treatment of these legends is now valued as a deeply significant oblique commentary on cultural decadence and the precarious balance of civilization. Drawing upon published and unpublished materials, Tennyson's Camelot studies the Idylls of the King from the perspective of all its medieval sources. In noting the Arthurian literature Tennyson knew and paying special attention to the works that became central to his Arthurian creation, the volume reveals the poet's immense knowledge of the medieval legends and his varied approaches to his sources. The author follows the chronology of composition of the Idylls, allowing the reader to see Tennyson's evolving conception of his poem and his changing attitudes to the medieval accounts. The Idylls of the King stands, ultimately, as the poet's own Camelot, his legacy to his generation, an indictment of his society through a vindication of his idealism.
Published in 1850, In Memoriam won its author the Poet Laureateship of Britain and received widespread attention from critics and reviewers, as well as from ordinary readers. The poem was written in memory of Tennyson’s close friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly in 1833; it became an unofficial devotional manual for mourners, including Queen Victoria after the death of Prince Albert. The poem’s scope goes beyond individual grief, however, to the development and extinction of species, audaciously exploring history, evolution, and God’s relationship with humanity. Its formal beauty and emotional resonance make In Memoriam as compelling today as it was for nineteenth-century readers. Matthew Rowlinson’s introduction traces the poem’s composition history and places it in the context of Tennyson’s personal and intellectual development. Historical appendices include writings by Arthur Hallam, Victorian fiction on courtship and marriage, and materials on natural history and evolution.
Alternative approaches have emerged which have radically altered our understanding of Tennyson's poetry and his relationship to the Victorian age. This text covers the most significant areas of new work on Tennyson, effectively linking feminist and gender studies with deconstructive, psychoanalytic and linguistic attention. The Introduction discusses ways in which orthodox critical approaches have dominated readings of Tennyson's poetry and provides a critical overview of the radical reappraisal of his work. It also provides a guide to the varied ways in which these new debates have shaped and are shaping themselves, with a final discussion of the future directions which Tennyson criticism is likely to take. The essays chosen cover and reflect a range of modes of critical enquiry compelling in themselves.
Alfred Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria’s favourite poet, commanded a wider readership than any other of his time. His ascendancy was neither the triumph of pure genius nor an accident of history:he skilfully crafted his own career and his relationships with his audience. Fame and recognition came, lavishly and in abundance, but the hunger for more never left him. Like many successful Victorians, he was a provincial determined to make good in the capital while retaining his regional strengths. One of eleven children, he remained close to his extended family and never lost his Lincolnshire accent.Resolving never to be anything except ‘a poet’, he wore his hair long, smoked incessantly and sported a cloak and wide-brimmed Spanish hat. Tennyson ranged widely in his poetry, turning his interests in geology, evolution and Arthurian legend into verse, but much of his workrelates to his personal life. The tragic loss of Arthur Hallam, a brilliant friend and fellow Apostle at Cambridge, fed into some of his most successful and best-known poems. It took Tennyson seventeen years to complete his great elegy for Hallam, In Memoriam, a work which established his fame and secured his appointment as Poet Laureate. The poet who wrote The Lady of Shalott and The Charge of the Light Brigade has become a permanent part of our culture. This enjoyable and thoughtful new biography shows him as a Romantic as well as a Victorian, exploring both the poems and Tennyson’s attempts at play writing, as well as the pressures of his age and the personal relationships that made the man.
Comparative literature by Marjorie Moreland BOWDEN
In Tennyson’s Poems: New Textual Parallels, R. H. Winnick identifies more than a thousand previously unknown instances in which Tennyson phrases of two or three to as many as several words are similar or identical to those occurring in prior works by other hands—discoveries aided by the proliferation of digitized texts and the related development of powerful search tools over the three decades since the most recent major edition of Tennyson’s poems was published. Each of these instances may be deemed an allusion (meant to be recognized as such and pointing, for definable purposes, to a particular antecedent text), an echo (conscious or not, deliberate or not, meant to be noticed or not, meaningful or not), or merely accidental. Unless accidental, Winnick writes, these new textual parallels significantly expand our knowledge both of Tennyson’s reading and of his thematic intentions and artistic technique. Coupled with the thousand-plus textual parallels previously reported by Christopher Ricks and other scholars, he says, they suggest that a fundamental and lifelong aspect of Tennyson’s art was his habit of echoing any work, ancient or modern, which had the potential to enhance the resonance or deepen the meaning of his poems. The new textual parallels Winnick has identified point most often to the King James Bible and to such canonical authors as Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Thomson, Cowper, Shelley, Byron, and Wordsworth. But they also point to many authors rarely if ever previously cited in Tennyson editions and studies, including Michael Drayton, Richard Blackmore, Isaac Watts, Erasmus Darwin, John Ogilvie, Anna Lætitia Barbauld, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, John Wilson, and—with surprising frequency—Felicia Hemans. Tennyson’s Poems: New Textual Parallels is thus a major new resource for Tennyson scholars and students, an indispensable adjunct to the 1987 edition of Tennyson’s complete poems edited by Christopher Ricks.