Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tennyson, Frederick

TENNYSON, FREDERICK (1807–1898), poet, second son of Dr. George Clayton Tennyson, rector of Somersby, Lincolnshire, and elder brother of Alfred Tennyson, first baron Tennyson [q. v.], born at Louth on 5 June 1807, was educated at Eton (leaving as captain of the school in 1827) and at Trinity College, Cambridge, whence he graduated B.A. in 1832. While at college he gained the Browne medal for Greek verse and other distinctions. During his subsequent life he lived little in England. He spent much time in travel, and resided for twenty years at Florence, where he was intimate with the Brownings. He here met his future wife, Maria Giuliotti, daughter of the chief magistrate of Siena, and was married to her in 1839. Twenty years later he moved to St. Ewold's, Jersey, where he remained till 1896. Later he resided with his only son, Captain Julius Tennyson, and his wife at Kensington. He died at their house on 26 Feb. 1898.

Frederick Tennyson shared the notable poetic gift current in his family. As a young man he contributed four poems to the ‘Poems by Two Brothers,’ written by Alfred and Charles. In 1854 he published a volume entitled ‘Days and Hours,’ concerning which some correspondence will be found in the ‘Letters of Edward Fitzgerald;’ it was also praised by Charles Kingsley in ‘The Critic.’ Discouraged, however, by the general tenor of the criticism his poetry encountered, he published no more until 1890, when he printed an epic, ‘The Isles of Greece,’ based upon a few surviving fragments of Sappho and Alcæus. ‘Daphne’ followed in 1891, and in 1895 ‘Poems of the Day and Year,’ in which a portion of the volume of 1854, ‘Days and Hours,’ was reproduced.

No one of these volumes seems to have attracted any wide notice. Frederick Tennyson was from the first overshadowed by the greater genius of his brother Alfred. His lyric gift was considerable, his poetic workmanship choice and fine, and the atmosphere of his poetry always noble. But he has remained almost unknown to the modern student of poetry, and a selection of four lyrics in Palgrave's second ‘Golden Treasury’ has probably for the first time made Frederick Tennyson something more than a name to the readers of 1898. The poet was for some years under the influence of Swedenborg and other mystical religionists, but returned in his last years to the more simple Christian faith of his childhood.

[Life of Alfred Tennyson, by his son, passim; Athenæum, 5 March 1898; Times, 28 Feb. 1898; Edward Fitzgerald's Letters, 1889; private information.]

A. A.