Seminar Paper, 2003
17 Pages, Grade: 2,7 (B-)
II Background Information
1. The Victorian Age
2. Alfred Tennyson
3. Background and sources
4. The story of “Enoch Arden”
III Theme, Structure and Peculiarities of Style in Alfred Tennyson’ s “Enoch Arden”
III.a The main themes
1. The theme of common life
2. The religious theme
3. The heroic theme
III.b The structure
III.c Peculiarities of Style
This essay deals with theme, structure and peculiarities of style in Alfred Tennyson’ s “Enoch Arden”. In particular it describes the main themes (theme of common life, religious theme, heroic theme). Furthermore it illustrates the structure and the style of writing.
The ideas of this essay are thematically linked. The second chapter gives background information (Victorian Age, Alfred Tennyson, Background and sources, story of “Enoch Arden”). In the main part (third chapter) the themes mentioned above are examined. A conclusion is given in the fourth chapter. Finally references are given in the appendix.
The Victorian Age got its name from Queen Victoria who was born on May 24th, 1819 and died at the age of 81 on January 22nd,1901. She became Queen after William IV had died on June 20th, 1837. She was crowned in Westminster Abbey on June 28th, 1838 and reigned 64 years from 1837-1901.
Among the characteristics of Victorian England were the effects of industrialisation. The industrial revolution led to the fast growth of cities. This urbanisation was so rapid that the quality of the houses available to the poor was often appalling. The gap between rich and poor widened.
During this time these far- reaching industrial and scientific changes produced social and political upheavals. Uncertainty and doubt about accepted beliefs were characteristic of the Victorian Age because a new evolution of ideas was brought about. People such as Karl Marx and Charles Darwin introduced new, influential concepts. Karl Marx (1818-1883) in “Das Kapital” (1867) advocated a new concept of society and the distribution of wealth. Charles Darwin developed a new concept, the theory of evolution; his book “The Origin of Species”(1859) was a challenge to the old Christian Faith.
Alfred Tennyson was born in Somersby , Lincolnshire, on August 6th, 1809 and died in Aldworth, Haslemere, Surrey on October 6th, 1892. He was the fourth son of eleven children from Rev. George Tennyson, the Rector of Somersby and of his wife Elizabeth, daughter of a vicar in the same county. She was a religious woman with the “somewhat over- anxious moralistic piety of her day”. Growing up in Lincolnshire meant a “long, free, profound intimacy with the countryside of his birth”.
In 1828 he followed his older brother Frederick to Trinity College in Cambridge. In 1829 he won the Chancellor`s Medal with his poem “Timbuctoo”.
The author Harold Nicolson divides his literary development into four phases. The first development extends from 1827-1842 and includes “Poems, Chiefly Lyrical” with masterpieces like ”The Dying Swan” and “A spirit haunts the year`s last hours”. In 1832 Tennyson travelled with Arthur Hallam on the Rhine and in December of the same year “Poems 1832” appeared which include “The Lady of Shalott”, “The Lotos-Eaters”, “The Miller`s Daughter”. The second phase begins with the death of Arthur Hallam in 1833 and concludes with “Maud”. The third development, the mid-Victorian phase, includes the” Idylls of the King” 1857-1874. In 1880 the last development, the Aldworth period, starts with “Ballads and other poems”.
Queen Victoria and Tennyson were in correspondence for a long time. Tennyson dedicated the 12 books “Idylls of the King” (1859), dealing with the legend of King Arthur, to Prince Albert (Albert of Sachsen Coburg Gotha (1819-1861) married to Victoria on February 10th, 1839).
Tennyson`s works were edited and annotated by his brother Lord Hallam Tennyson in nine volumes.
Tennyson exposed problems of Victorian society and supported “many of these preoccupations“ of the Victorian Age. “The Princess” (1847) and “Maud” (1855) e.g must be seen in relation to temporary issues such as commercialism and the woman question. In “The Two Voices” (1833) we hear the conflict of a mind whose orthodox Christianity is troubled by the new materialism.
“In Memoriam A.H.H.”, published in 1850 deals with the question of faith as well as personal despair. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1854) is a patriotic poem on the heroic charge of the Light Brigade (Sept. 26th, 1854) in the Crimean War when out of 673 officers and men who took part in it 247 were killed or wounded.
Many studies of his life and work have characterised Tennyson as the “major British Victorian Poet” whose “genius was lyrical”. Alfred Tennyson, who earned the name “Lord Tennyson” for his contribution to literature, succeeded Wordsworth (1770-1850) as Poet Laureate in 1850.
The original title of the volume which was published in 1864 was “Idylls of the Hearth”. It contained 16 poems and included Aylmer`s Field, The Voyage, The Grandmother (1859), Northern Farmer- Old Style, Sea Dreams, Welcome to Alexandra (1863), In the Valley of Cauteretz, The Flower, Requiescat, Tithonus (1860), The Sailor Boy (1861), The Islet, A Dedication, Boadicea, Milton- Alcaics (1863), Hendecasyllabics. They are mixed in style and themes.
The “Enoch Arden” story has its origin in Suffolk. This story was given to Tennyson by his friend Thomas Woolner. The success of “Enoch Arden” was immense. On the day of publication seventeen thousand copies were sold and by the end of the year 1864 sixty thousand copies.
The first volume containing “Enoch Arden” was dedicated to the poet`s wife:
“Dear, near and true – no truer Time himself
Can prove you, though he makes you evermore
Dearer and nearer, as the rapid of life
Shoots to the fall – take this. And pray that he
Who wrote it, honouring your sweet faith in him,
May trust himself.”
The story takes place in East Anglia. It opens on three children: Enoch Arden, Philip Ray and Annie Lee who live in a small town by the sea. When they are grown, both boys fall in love with Annie. Enoch, who is more persistent, wins her hand and they live happily for some years (“seven happy years of health and competence,/ and mutual love and honourable toil (…)“ ll.82/83) They have two children. Enoch prospers in his seafaring trade but when he falls ill (“In harbor, by mischance he slipt and fell./ A limb was broken when they lifted him. “ll.106/107), his family falls into a difficult situation. They lead “low miserable lives of hand to mouth” (l.115). Another son, a ”sickly one” (l.109), is born. Enoch decides to get back the amount of money which he lost and which he needs to “have all his pretty ones educated” (l.145).
He takes work as a seaman on a ship “China-bound” (l.122). He is then shipwrecked. For more than ten years nothing is heard of him. Annie is then forced to live “a life of silent melancholy” (l.259) in poverty (l.482). A third child is “sickly-born and grew/ yet sicklie r…” (ll.260/261). In this time Philip, the miller, supports Annie .He has faithfully loved her all this time. Assuming that Enoch is dead, he renews his wooing and begs her to marry him. Annie is filled with despair and asks for a sign. When she opens the Bible at random, she reads the words ” Under the palm-tree” (l.493). The following night she dreams of Enoch who sits beneath a palm tree, the sun is shining above him (l.497). Annie interprets this dream as sign that Enoch is in heaven.
The dream is wrongly interpreted by Annie. Convinced of the death of Enoch she agrees to marry Philip Ray. The dream, however, proves to be true because Enoch has indeed been shipwrecked on a tropical island. After ten years Enoch is rescued from this lonely island. A ship picks him up and takes him home.
 Cf. article “Victoria”, in: Encyclopaedia Britannica. A new Survey of Universal Knowledge Volume 23, Chicago/ London/ Toronto 1953, pp. 130- 131.
 Bozman, Mildred (publisher), Tennyson`s Poems in two Volumes, London 1965, Introduction, p. XV.
 ib. p.XVI
 Cf. Nicolson, Harold, Tennyson. Aspects of his life, character and poetry, London² 1949.
 Cf. Hope, Dyson/ Tennyson, Charles (publisher), Dear and Honoured Lady. The Correspondence Between Queen Victoria and Alfred Tennyson, London 1969.
 Tennyson, Hallam (publisher), The Works of Tennyson, London² 1907-1908.
 Burgess, Anthony, English Literature, London 1975, p.189.
 Hill Jr., Robert (publisher), Tennyson’ s poetry. Authoritative texts, contexts, criticism, New York/ London² 1999, p. IX.
 Auden, Wystan, Tennyson, An Introduction and a Selection, London 1946, p. XI.
 Cf. article “Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson”, in: Encyclopaedia Britannica. A new Survey of Universal Knowledge Volume 21, Chicago/ London/ Tortonto 1953, pp. 938- 942.
 Cf. Luce, Morton, Handbook to Tennyson’ s works, London 1897, pp. 201- 203. Cf, also Hill Jr., Robert (publisher), Tennyson’ s poetry. Authoritative texts, contexts, criticism, New York/ London² 1999, p. 347.
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