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Essay/Term paper: Tennyson as a victorian

Essay, term paper, research paper:  School Essays

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Tennyson as a Victorian

The Victorian age was an age where many changes occurred
socially, economically, and industrially. People began to explore
into areas such as the earth, the human body, and how to benefit
the daily lives of individuals. English literature was also
something that was beginning to be developed.

Historically, it began when Queen Victoria was anointed to the
thrown in 1837 and brought a new prosperity to England. She held
the throne for 63 years which is the longest monarch to hold the
thrown ever in English history. To many people, she was a symbol
of stability and prosperity as evidenced by the following feeling
from her people. The Victorian age has been said to be a very
diverse time. Historian T.B. Macaulay in 1838 said that the
English had become "the greatest and most highly civilized people
that ever the world saw." Yet, another man by the name of Benjamin
Disraeli, who was a writer and a politician, disagreed with this
statement and pointed out that the existence of an England of "two
nations who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and
feelings, as if they were ... of different planets; who are
formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are
ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same
laws." He further says that "these two nations were the richest
and poorest." It was a time when the rich were rich, and the poor
people were poor. The poor or lower class of people went hungry
and half naked throughout most of their lives. Life and death went
hand in hand; wealth and poverty stood side by side; repletion and
starvation laid them down together.

Such rapid change in industry destroyed jobs as it provided
new ones. The population shifted and left thousands housed in
urban slums with bad water, no sanitation, and little food. The
depression left whole factories unemployed, and with no means of
producing goods. Yet, some people believed that the only way to
control population growth was through starvation or self-control.
Men, women, and children accustomed to the community life of rural
towns and farms to the varied and independent work habits of the
farm, and the small shop, found themselves laboring up to sixteen
hours a day, six days a week, in factories without any government
safety regulations, and with very low pay. People were not known
as individuals only as "hands" with no control over their lives,
hired, and fired at the whim of the owner or the fluctuation of the
market. There was no way to make a better life for oneself because
you were born into a certain social status, or you lived a life of
poverty for the rest of your life or you were one of the privileged
classes and were guaranteed the status of the royalty.

The Victorian years also brought with them the increasing
efforts to achieve political, social, and economic reforms that
would change the structure of the country to meet the changes
created by industry. The Reform Bill was passed in 1832 which
increased the electorate by fifty percent. The bill made it
impossible for workers and women to vote, therefore, only one in
five Englishmen could vote. These men were generally from the
upper class and they controlled everything. To many people, this
was a light of hope that England would improve, but during the
1840's England saw the worst years of the century for unemployment,
hunger, and disease. It brought radical working class agitation
for the People's Chapter, which demanded universal male suffrage
and a Parliament in which any man could serve. The effects of
these problems prompted a series of bills to be passed. Parliament
repealed some of the more unjust laws, and began to legislate
shorter working hours, industrial safety, and urban sanitary
reform. Due to the economic prosperity, it reduced radical
agitation and in 1867 a second Reform Bill, which meant that most
working men were allowed to vote. It brought a more liberal view
of what was needed in life.

People's thoughts and ideas also changed with the development
of the country. The peoples' ideas became more free and they
accepted change more easily, yet not everybody wanted to admit to
change. People began to ask more questions about life, which
prompted the development of science and many people began to
question the bible. Lyell's Principles of Geology and Chamber's
Vestiges of creation brought out the view publically that the earth
was older than the bible said it to be. People's beliefs were
suddenly being shattered and the quest for answers was in need.
The change caused a great deal of confusion and alarm, which
prompted English writers to accept responsibility and write about
new thoughts, beliefs, and feelings.

Alfred Tennyson, who is a very famous poet, is often regarded
as the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry.
Tennyson was a man who had seen pain and sorrow in his life. After
the death of his best friend, Arthur Hallam, Tennyson found relief
from his pain in writing. Many of his writings were indeed about
his dead friend. For example in "The Passing of Arthur, the hero
has the same name as Tennyson's friend and also many lyrical poems,
that later were to become In Memorian A.H.H. These writing were
full of emotions, pain, fear, caring, and the desire to remember
his friend. Almost throughout all of Tennyson's work there were
pain, sadness, fear, love, and hidden messages to be found, and he
was very romantic. He opened himself up to the world in a very
private way, and also to severe criticism by many people. In "The
Lady of Shalott,"there is pain, frustration, and that of life as a
journey that leads to death. The poem is a way of showing how
people are destined to certain fates in life and that they cannot
escape their fate. Tennyson made people's feelings real and more
vocal. His writings, later in his life, were publicly admired and
sought out. In 1842 he published another of his works called Poems
which had two volumes, one containing a revised selection from the
volumes of 1830 and 1832, the other, new poems. The new poems
included "Morte d' Arthur," and "The Two Voices of Sin" and other
poems that revealed a strange naive quality such as "The May
Queen," "Lady Clara Vere de Vere," and "The Lord of Burleigh." The
new volume was not received well publically. But the grant to him
at this time, by the prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, helped stop
his worries in financial matters. In 1847 he published his first
long poem, The Princess, a poem about anti-feminist fantasia.

A man by the name of Edward Moxon offered to publish the
elegies on Hallam that Tennyson had been composing over the years.
To Tennyson this was a dream that he thought would never come true.
At first they appeared anonymously, which helped with the success
with both reviewers and the public readers won him the friendship
of Queen Victoria, and helped bring about, in the same year, his
appointment as poet laureate.

Tennyson's ascendancy among Victorian poets began to be
questioned even during his lifetime. Many writers became jealous
and rivals of Tennyson. And 20th-century criticism, influenced by
the rise of a new poetry headed by T.S. Eliot has proposed some
drastic new concepts of his work. Much of Tennyson that appealed
to his readers has ceased to appeal many readers today. He can be
pompous, arrogant, offering little more than shallow or confused
thoughts caused by a lot of pain. A more balanced estimate of
Tennyson has begun to prevail, however, with the recognition of the
enduring greatness of "Ulysses," some of Tennyson's best lyrics and
above all the stature of In Memoriam as the great representative
poem of the Victorian Age. It is now also recognized that the
realistic and comic aspects of Tennyson's work are more important
than they were thought to be during the period of the reaction
against him.

Lord Alfred Tennyson also tried to be very dramatic in such
poems as Queen Mary, but his success was only moderate. He only
showed signs of growing more frustrated and resentment at the
religious, moral, and political tendencies of the age. He had
already caused a sensation by publishing a poem called "Despair."
It evoked a rush of pamphlets being published, and lectures and
sermons. He shocked many people.

Finally the perception of the poet's awkward sense of the
mystery of life, which lies at the heart of his greatness, as in
"Crossing the Bar' or "Flower in the Cranied Wall," unites his
admirers in this century with those in the last. Though less of
Tennyson's work may survive than appeared likely during his
Victorian heyday, what does remain and it is by no means small in
quality seems likely to vanish.

In conclusion, the Victorian century was a era of change and
confusion. England improved itself for the people and it's
government. The writers of the time were supposed to be indicative
for answering questions and for guidance. Lord Alfred Tennyson was
a man who changed the way people thought about literature and
poets. He has also influenced many writers of books, TV shows, and
movies in the plots of stories.


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