Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–92)
Wordsworth was aware, from 1830 on, that the two Tennyson brothers (Charles and Alfred) were writing poetry that deserved a serious reading. For several years he believed that Charles was the superior craftsman. His praise of Alfred was, more often than not, hedged round with reservations. In 1848, shortly before his death, he told Ralph Waldo Emerson that Alfred Tennyson (who would succeed him as Poet Laureate) was ‘a right poetic genius, though with some affectation’. The assessment echoed an earlier statement, expressed in 1840, that Tennyson and Keats shared an ‘over-lusciousness’. Nevertheless, the right hand gave what the left took away, since Wordsworth thought well of the ‘music in syllables’ that both poets had mastered. His distaste for Tennyson’s first performance – probably Poems, chiefly Lyrical (1830), rather than Poems (1833) – may be sensed in a number of slighting remarks that he kept making until his death.
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