It has been said that the life of every great man ought to be rewritten once in every fifty years. It is just that time since Hallam, Lord Tennyson, published his monumental memoir of his father, and meanwhile no work on a similar scale has appeared, for Professor Lounsbury had to leave his book unfinished and Harold Nicolson's volume was only a brilliant personal interpretation. It is therefore perhaps not too soon for a second comprehensive study.
I have ventured to undertake this only after anxious consideration. As a grandson of the poet I have naturally felt some scruples in violating his so often and so strongly expressed desire that his personality and private life should only be studied through his poems. I feel, however, that this was a morbid reaction to the peculiar circumstances of his early life, which ought not to outweigh the legitimate wish of succeeding generations to learn all that can be known about his character and vital experience, since without this knowledge it is impossible fully to understand and appreciate his poetry.
I feel also that the psychology of genius is an important and as yet little explored subject, for the further study of which Tennyson's long life and unique devotion to his art should provide much valuable material.
Having satisfied myself that a new life of the poet was justified, I then had to consider whether I was the person to write it. It appeared to me that I have, by circumstance, certain qualifications denied to others better fitted by experience and scholarship for so formidable a task. I am fortunate enough to have known and clearly to remember the poet in his later years. I have talked with and questioned many who knew him intimately, and (most important of all) I have been able to study many hundreds of letters exchanged between the poet's father and grandfather and their immediate family and friends, which have hitherto been quite unknown. These have enabled me to describe fully for the first time events, which, I feel, had a decisive influence on his life and character.