The Tennyson Monument at Sun Set
The Tennyson exhibit in 1992 marked an important event — the Tennyson centenary. Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) was acclaimed very early in life as "the greatest poet of our generation, perhaps of our century" (letter of Arthur Hallam to William Gladstone, the future Prime Minister, September 1829). Tennyson's longer works, such as his religious poem In Memoriam (1850) and his Arthurian epic Idylls of the King (published in stages over a forty-year period), soon established themselves among the central, canonical works of English literature. Many of his shorter poems, such as "The Brook," "The May-Queen," and "The Charge of the Light Brigade," entered popular culture as songs or recitation-pieces. His poetry has spoken to intellectuals, to aesthetes, and to more ordinary readers for more than 150 years. Tennyson, more than any other British Poet Laureate, gave that oft-derided position a genuine literary distinction, and Tennyson was the first English poet ever given a peerage "for services to literature." His was a unique career in the close interrelations it demonstrates between a highly individual creative artist and the culture of his age.