Published in 1850, In Memoriam won its author the Poet Laureateship of Britain, and received widespread attention from critics and reviewers, as well as ordinary readers. The poem was written in memory of Tennyson’s close friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly in 1833; it became a kind of unofficial devotional manual for mourners, including Queen Victoria after the death of Prince Albert. The poem’s scope goes beyond individual grief, however, to the development and extinction of species, audaciously exploring history, evolution, and God’s relationship with humanity. Its formal beauty and emotional resonance make In Memoriam as compelling today as it was for nineteenth-century readers.
Matthew Rowlinson’s introduction traces the poem’s composition history and places it in the context of Tennyson’s personal and intellectual development. Historical appendices include writings by Arthur Hallam, Victorian fiction on courtship and marriage, and materials on natural history and evolution.