Tennyson was driven throughout his life to find an inclusive explanation of the human condition. He sought what Jean Franois Lyotard has termed a ‘grand narrative’ which would satisfy his intellectual, imaginative, spiritual and emotional needs (Lyotard 1986: xxiv). Tennyson’s difficulty was that he was heir to the large accounts of meaning in three distinguishable and often incompatible patterns of thought: Christian, Romantic and Enlightenment. Tennyson’s most important verse was born out of his attempts to formulate a working sense of meaning out of these frequently contradictory materials. The significance of Romantic and broadly Christian perspectives in Tennyson’s poetry is well known. But a metaphysical scepticism that was associated, in part, with rational, scientific perspectives deriving from Enlightenment thought has been seen as something which intrudes upon his work. Scepticism has been viewed as alien to Tennyson’s mind and imaginative procedures. It has been understood as something he was unable to assimilate, which he experienced only as an intellectual threat and which is present in his poetry only to the extent that he opposed it from more deeply founded Romantic and religious or quasi-religious positions.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.