THE FAIRY BUILDING OF YOUTH
GEORGE CLAYTON TENNYSON, Rector of Somersby and Bag Enderby, incumbent of Benniworth and Vicar of Great Grimsby, in Lincolnshire, was among the most evident misfits in Anglican history. A man of imagination and passionate temperament, he had been unforgivably disinherited and forced into the Church by his father; and while his sense of justice was permanently outraged by the favouritism shown his younger brother, his impulsive, original nature was constantly at odds with his ministry. His wife, Elizabeth, was one of the beauties of Lincolnshire, 'one of the most angelick creatures on God's earth'; but even she could not prevent his increasing melancholy. Alfred Tennyson was the fourth of the dozen children of this handsome, gifted, unhappy pair. He was born at Somersby Rectory on August 6th, 1809: ten years before the birth of Queen Victoria.
He inherited all the splendid looks and passion of his parents, much of his father's gloom and his mother's piety. Like his older brothers, Frederick and Charles, he was strikingly precocious. The first poetry that stirred him was his own, and at the age of five he stretched out his arms to the gale and cried: 'I hear, I hear strange voices in the wind.' It moved him wonderfully. 'When I was eight,' he recalled years later, 'I remember making a line I thought grander than Campbell or Byron or Scott, I rolled it out and was greatly moved by it: "with slaughterous sons of thunder rolled the flood" -- great nonsense, of course, but I thought it fine.' And
I perfectly well remember [he told Sir George Grove, the historian of music, in 1872], that when I was 8 years old I was unwell one Sunday and could not go to church and my elder brother gave me a slate and said: 'see if you can write verse,' and a subject 'flowers,' and before he came back I had covered both sides of the slate (a large one) with very fair