Lear, Tennyson, and the Poetry of Happiness

Matthew Bevis (Keynote Lecture, Tennyson Society Annual Meeting)

‘Happy I certainly have not been. I entirely disagree with the saying you quote of happy men not writing poetry’, wrote Tennyson to a friend. Edward Lear even less cheery when pondering this matter: ‘happiness is not for us here’, he insisted. This lecture explores some possible connections between poetry and happiness by focusing on Tennyson and Lear, and by considering their work in relation to the Romantic poets from whom both took their bearings. It wonders, just as Tennyson and Lear did, about whether poetry can or should make us happy, and about what happiness might or might not be.

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