Searching For Alfred In The Shadow Of Tennyson



Poet and writer Ruth Padel goes in search of the real Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a poet who for many people today is an iconic image of the Victorian era.

We know him as Queen Victorian's Poet Laureate, an imposing figure with a beard and cape and the author of long poems often based on myths and legends.

But this image hides other facets of Tennyson and obscures the fact that many creative artists today are drawing on his work.

Championing him as a poet for our times as well as his own, Ruth talks to figures as diverse as poet and former Laureate Andrew Motion, novelists Andrew O' Hagan and Adam Foulds, poet Jo Shapcott, rock musician Dani Filth, and academics Robert Douglas-Fairhurst and Angela Leighton.

She hears how the figure of Tennyson has been an inspiration to them.

Ruth also investigates the real Alfred behind the image of grandeur.

She finds out about his preoccupation with what he called the 'black blood' of his family, whose members were prone to breakdowns, alcoholism and madness.

And she hears how these concerns led to Tennyson's ability to articulate neurosis and loss in his work even though, as Poet Laureate, he became an Establishment figure.

Ruth Padel searches for the real Tennyson behind the poetry and investigates his legacy.