Portrait of Tennyson

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Biographical Sketch

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) was a poet. He was born in 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire. He died in Aldworth, Sussex. His work first appeared in Poems by Two Brothers, published in 1827. He married Emily Sarah Sellwood (1813–1896) in 1850 and they had two sons, Hallam, born in 1852, and Lionel, born in 1854.

Tennyson was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where in 1829 he won the Chancellor’s Gold Medal for a poem he wrote on the subject of “Timbuctoo.” In 1850, he was appointed poet laureate, following the publication of In Memoriam A.H.H., an elegy dedicated to his close friend, Arthut Henry Hallam, who died in 1833. Maud, a poem highly acclaimed for its elaborate use of meters and stanza forms, appeared in 1855.

Tennyson’s last book of poetry, Death of Oenone, Akbar’s Dream, and Other Poems was published in 1892. Hallam, Lord Tennyson (1852–1928) wrote a biography of his father, Alfred, Lord Tennyson: A Memoir, which appeared in 1897.

Scope and Content

The collection is rich in the first English and American editions of Tennyson’s works, including Poems by Two Brothers (1827), In Memoriam A.H.H. (1850), Maud: And Other Poems (1855), Idylls of the King (1859), and Demeter: And Other Poems (1889), among others. It is also a very good general collection of Tennysoniana, containing concordances, pamphlets, periodicals, indexes, biographical essays, and studies of individual poems.

Selected Highlights

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    Poems by Two Brothers
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    The Princess: A Medley
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    In Memoriam
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    Maud and Other Poems
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    Idylls of the King
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    Ballads and Other Poems
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    The Poetical Works of Alfred Tennyson, Poet Laureate
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    Alfred, Lord Tennyson: His Homes and Haunts

History of the Collection

Charles Canniff James (1863–1916), an alumnus of Victoria College, book collector, academic, and distinguished civil servant donated the collection to the library in 1898. The titles in the collection were acquired as part of a larger C.C. James collection, which originally consisted of the Canadiana and the Tennyson collections. The C.C. James Memorial Room, housing the collections, was dedicated in his memory in 1926. It was located on the third floor of the Birge–Carnegie Library.

James also published two essays on the poet and his work, A Tennyson Pilgrimage and Tennyson, the Imperialist in 1910, describing James’s travels in 1910 to the birthplace of Tennyson and other places in Great Britain associated with the poet, and discussing the poet’s role in the British national and imperial identity in the nineteenth century.

Librarian David Sinclair (1942–1974) catalogued and re-organized the collection in 1970. He also published an essay analyzing the scope the collection in Victorian Studies Association Newsletter.

Accessing the Collection

The Library Catalogue

The University of Toronto Catalogue lists all titles in the Tennyson collection, including James’s published essays on Tennyson.

Research Assistance

Please visit us at the reference desk on the main floor of the library or contact our reference librarians if you require assistance with researching the collection.


Related Special Collections at Victoria University Library

Charles Canniff James fonds contains several manuscripts of essays on Tennyson and his poetry.

Related Resources

Sinclair, David. “The Tennyson Collection in Victoria College Library.” Victorian Studies Association Newsletter, vol. 6, 1970, pp. 12–14.

Sinclair, David. “The First Pirated Edition of Tennyson’s Poems.” The Book Collector, vol. 22, no. 2, 1973, pp. 177–188.

Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809–1892) Index to Poems, Representative Poetry Online.