Seamus Perry

Laureate of Melancholy

Tennyson: To Strive, To Seek, To Find

By

Chatto & Windus 428pp £25 order from our bookshop

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was not among the eminent Victorians skewered by Lytton Strachey in his once-famous book, but he has remained in many ways the very idea of a Victorian, possessing the full mixture of suppressed turmoil, self-blindness, and strenuous achievement that Strachey found in the age at large. Even among that troubled company, Tennyson comes across as peculiarly uneasy in his own skin. There can be few other great writers, W H Auden thought, whose best work appears so wholly the consequence of a miserable childhood. Auden had in mind such inimitable passages as this:

but what am I?

     An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,