1992 is the 100th anniversary of the death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson - an occasion which is celebrated by the publication of this book. The biography characterizes the poet as a brilliant and passionate man, and investigates his use of opium and his latent homosexuality.
For most of the 100 years since his death, Tennyson has been seen, on the one hand, as a grim, bearded embodiment of the Victorian age, and on the other - in the dismissive words of W.H. Auden - as "the great English poet of the nursery". His stature as a person has crumbled and his influence deemed largely negligible compared with that of his contemporaries, Arnold and Browning. Critics who are happiest investing poets with greatness only if they are poor, tragic or overlooked - and preferably all three - have never forgiven Tennyson for being as instantly recognizable as Queen Victoria and being an enormously popular poet laureate, for writing the jingoistic "Charge of the Light Brigade" and, worst of all, for having the temerity to make huge amounts of money from his poetry in his lifetime. In taking both a scholarly and popular approach to Tennyson's life, this biography sets out to redress the balance. Placing his subject within the context of his era, but discarding the "typically Victorian" viewpoint, the author paints a detailed portrait of a complex man, innovative in his work, curiously dismissive of social graces, yet devoted to his family and obsessed by immortality, his health and the lawns at his country home.
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