Alfred Lord Tennyson
Alfred's father, George Tennyson was the rector of Somersby and Bag Enderby and was know as 'Dr. Tennyson.' George lost his inheritance to his younger brother, and was forced by his father to enter the church even though he had no real calling. He adapted well to life as a country parson.
In 1805, George married Elizabeth Fyche who was the daughter of the Vicar of Louth. Ten of their children were born at Somersby rectory. Alfred was born on 1809 August 06 at Somersby, he was the fourth of 12 children.
Alfred first began writing poetry at the age of eight. The subject was 'The flowers in the Somersby Garden.' One of his elder brothers, Charles, looked at the poem and said, "Yes, you can write." Later, his grandfather asked him to write some verse about his grandmother who had just died. After Alfred had written them, his grandfather gave him ten shillings and said, "There, that is the first money you have earned by your poetry, and, take my word for it, it will be your last!"
When Alfred was seven years old he was sent to Louth Grammar school. This was a very unhappy time when he was beaten not only by other boys but also by his form teacher. Four years later, he returned to Somersby where he was taught by his father. All the Tennyson children benefited from their father's intellect. He was well grounded in languages, mathematics and the sciences. Reading was one of Alfred's passions and would always have a book with him even on country walks.
The family would have holidays by the sea, either at Mablethorpe or Skegness. They would take cottage close to the sea bank. The poet loved the sea all his life, especially the North Sea in rough weather. Alfred used to walk among the sand hills between Skegness and Gibraltar Point. At low tide he would go onto the mud flats. He would recite his poems out loud in the isolation of the east coast.
In 1826 Alfred (17) and Charles (18) published their first book called "Poems by Two Brothers." They received ten pounds for the work published by Jacksons of Louth. They were so excited to see their poems in print that they hired a carriage and drove the 14 miles to Mablethorpe "where they shared their triumph with the wind and the waves."
In 1828, Alfred at 19, entered Trinity College, Cambridge. While at college he won the Chancellor's medal for English Poetry with his 'Timbucktoo.' He had a number of poems published whilst he was here. It was while at Cambridge he met Arthur Hallam who became a great friend and later, was a frequent visitor to Somersby. With Hallam, the poet visited Spain and later, travelled up the Rhine.
In 1831, Alfred's father died and so he returned to Somersby to take care of his family where they stayed at the Rectory until 1837. Dr. Tennyson, who was 52 when he died, is buried in the south-west corner of the churchyard.
A book of poems was published in 1831 which included "The Lady of Shallot," "Morte d'Arthur" and "Locksley Hall." It was well received by the public but attacked by the critics. For this sensitive man, it was devastating and as a result was silent for ten years. Some of this time was spent in the Lake District.
In 1833, Arthur Hallam died while visiting Italy. From Tennyson came "The Two Voices," "In Memoriam" and "Ulysses." Eventually, when these were published and for which he gained some fame, Alfred was able to marry Emily Sellwood, his life-long sweetheart. Emily was the niece of Sir John Franklin, the Arctic explorer. In 1850, they were married at Shiplake on Thames.
On the death of William Wordsworth in 1850, Alfred Tennyson became Poet Laureate. Earnings from "Maud" enabled them to buy a house on the Isle of Wight. In 1871 Queen Victoria offered him a peerage which he refused but ten years later was persuaded to accept. He became the first Lord Tennyson. At the age of 80 he wrote "Crossing the Bar."
After leaving Somersby in 1837, Alfred never visited his old home again. It was at his house at Blackdown in Surrey he died in 1892 October 06. Five days later he was buried in Westminster Abbey.
For over 50 years, Alfred Lord Tennyson dominated English Literature.
> back to Local History