HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Poetical Works
Author: Alfred Tennyson
Publisher: Andesite Press , republished in 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1298651419 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1298651417 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1853264146 Paperback
ISBN-10: 1853264148 Paperback
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Tennyson, Alfred. The Poetical Works (published in 1900 by Thomas Y. Crowell and Co., 46 E. 14th St., New York City, NY). Recently, I have had occasion to look over some of the old books of poetry that have been handed down to me from my ancestors and currently sit on my bookshelves. One of them is The Poetical Works of Alfred Tennyson, who was born on Aug. 6, 1809 at Somersby in Lincolnshire, England, and became one of England’s best known poets of the nineteenth century. The fourth of twelve children born to George Clayton Tennyson the younger, an Anglican minister, he was sent to London Grammar School in 1815 but left in 1820 and received a wide literary education from his father. A precocious youth, he began writing even before his teens, and in 1827 joined two of his brothers at Trinity College, Oxford, where he befriended Arthur Hallam, who later became engaged to Tennyson’s sister Emily. Tennyson’s father died in 1831, and Hallam died suddenly in 1833. In 1840 Tennyson moved to London and developed a reputation as a bohemian who was addicted to port and tobacco and held latitudinarian religious views. During this time, he experienced financial failure, ill health, and nervous instability, but after his marriage in 1850 to Emily Sellwood his life became more secure and outwardly uneventful. His position as the national poet was the result of his 1852 ode on the death of Wellington and was ensured by his 1859 publication of an Arthurian project known as The Idylls of the King. Accepting a peerage in 1884, he published a new volume in 1886, Locksley Hall Sixty Years After, which consisted mainly of imprecations against modern decadence and retracted his earlier belief in inevitable human progress. Despite ill health, Tennyson continued to write until his death at Aldworth House near Haslemere in Surrey, England, on Oct. 6, 1892.
Many editions of Tennyson’s poems have been issued by various publishers, including Ticknor and Fields (1867), Harper and Brothers (1870), Houghton Mifflin Company (1898), and Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd (1927). A modern paperback version is available from Wordsworth Editions Ltd. (1998). My copy begins with his “Juvenilia,” contains the complete Idylls of the King about Arthur and Camelot, as well as some of his longer poems such as “The Princess,” “Maud,” “Enoch Arden,” “In Memoriam,” and others, and concludes with my favorite, “Crossing the Bar” which describes how there is a scheduled time for each of us to go but states with calm assurance that God will guide us through death as He has in life. Because of its shifting meter it was not intended as a hymn, but was adapted into regular meter and made into a four stanza hymn by Mrs. Joseph Cook. Tennyson considered this poem the epitome of his life of faith and requested that his son make sure that it stands at the end of all editions of his works.
Although Tennyson has often been characterized as an austere, bearded patriarch and laureate of the Victorian age, his poems speak clearly to the imagination of the late 20th century, and his work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important. His mastery of rhyme, meter, imagery, and mood communicate their dark, sensuous, and sometimes morbid messages. He is one of the greatest of all English-language poets, was named Poet Laureate of England by Queen Victoria, and remains among the most respected and popular of English authors. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is one of the most beloved poems of all time. T. S. Eliot described Tennyson as having the finest ear of any poet in the English language Much given to melancholy and feelings of aching desolation, Tennyson’s verse also carries clear messages of hope: ‘Ring out the old, ring in the new’, and ‘Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all.’ Ulan Press (2012) has issued a reproduction of this important historical book, maintaining the same format as the original work. Also Lexicos Publishing has made available the definitive e-book edition of Tennyson’s poetical works in their entirety, based on the standard edition of the works, the Eversley Edition, which was edited by the poet’s son Hallam.