History

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

History

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate, died on 6 October 1892 at his home in Haslemere, Surrey. On October 11 the coffin was brought to Westminster Abbey and lay overnight in St Faith’s chapel (just off the south transept). The chapel was hung with purple and the Union Flag covered the coffin. The many wreaths and flowers were collected together in the Jerusalem Chamber, a room in the Deanery. Queen Victoria's tribute was a laurel wreath containing an inset lyre.

The next day the funeral was attended by thousands of mourners. The Abbey organist, Frederick Bridge, set to music words from Tennyson’s ‘Crossing the Bar’:

"Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, When I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep, Too full for sound and foam, When that which drew from out the boundless deep, Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell, And after that the dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark;

For tho from out our bourne of Time and Place, The flood may bear me far, I hope to see my Pilot face to face, When I have crost the bar."

Lady Tennyson wrote the music for her husband’s last poem ‘The Silent Voices’ (at that time unpublished), which was sung by the choir prior to the burial. The poet was laid between the graves of John Dryden and Robert Browning, and in front of Chaucer’s monument. The hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” followed and the Dead March in Saul was played at the conclusion of the service. The grave was then covered by a pall, with a design of trailing roses, handmade in Keswick. The gravestone simply reads:

ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON. BORN AUGUST 6 1809. DIED OCTOBER 6 1892.

George Granville Bradley, Dean of Westminster, who conducted the service, was a personal friend of the poet. In the Abbey muniments is a letter to his daughter Emily apparently from Audrey Tennyson "...You must forgive but I hardly know what I am writing. I do indeed wish the Dean could have seen the dear beautiful figure lying as if asleep only and as if the eyelids must be going to open again, looking more beautiful than he ever did in life, owing to the wonderful calm and peaceful expression... Hallam and his mother are marvellous and I dread the breaking down that I fear may come after Wednesday".

In 1895 a bust of the poet, by Thomas Woolner, was placed on a pillar nearby. It had been made in 1857 and was the gift of Mr Jenner.

Alfred was born at Somersby in Lincolnshire, the fourth of many children of the Revd. Dr George Tennyson and Elizabeth (Fytche). He was educated at Louth and Trinity College, Cambridge. In Memoriam was written on the death of his friend Arthur Hallam. His ‘Morte d’Arthur’ and ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ are well-known. In 1850 he married Emily Sellwood (1813-1896). Their sons were Lionel and Hallam (1852-1928). Queen Victoria appointed him Poet Laureate in 1850 and in 1883 he was created Lord Tennyson.

Lionel married Eleanor Locker on 28 February 1878 and Hallam married Audrey Boyle on 25 June 1884, both in the Abbey. Lionel's children Charles, Alfred and Michael were all baptised at the Abbey. Charles married Ivy Pretious in 1909 and Alfred married Margaret Drummond in 1912, again the Abbey.

A photo of the grave and the bust can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.


 

© Dean and Chapter of Westminster
Further reading:

“Alfred, Lord Tennyson: A Memoir” by Hallam Tennyson, 1897.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004 for the Tennyson family.

See also the website of The Tennyson Society.

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Tennyson grave