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.