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Alfred, Lord Tennyson

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Alfred, Lord Tennyson

by James Mudd
albumen print, 1861
9 5/8 in. x 7 5/8 in. (246 mm x 194 mm)
Purchased with help from the Friends of the National Libraries and the Pilgrim Trust, 1966
Photographs Collection
NPG x8005

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • James Mudd (1821-1906), Photographer. Artist associated with 12 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This is one of the finest early photographs of the poet. It was given wide currency through its publication on 15 April 1861 by the firm of Cundall & Co. Tennyson began to grow his beard in 1857 and never shaved again. The fashion, shared by many of his contemporaries, seems to have been influenced by soldiers returning from the Crimean War (1853-6), where harsh conditions prevented shaving. The same conflict inspired one of his most famous poems, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1855).

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 59 Read entry

    With the publication of his Arthurian poems Idylls of the King in 1859, Tennyson, who had succeeded Wordsworth as Poet Laureate nine years earlier, finally won popular recognition and a celebrity which lasted until his death. As a result the demand for photographs of him greatly increased, and his strong, idiosyncratic features made an especially good subject. Carlyle described him as 'one of the finest looking men in the world. A great shock of rough, dusky, dark hair; bright laughing hazel eyes; massive aquiline face, most massive yet most delicate'.

    This photograph, which has previously been attributed to Lewis Carroll, is probably by the Manchester photographer James Mudd, best known for his photographic inventory of locomotives built by the local firm of Beyer-Peacock. It was given wide currency by its publication on 15 April 1861 by Cundall & Co (founded by Joseph Cundall 1819-95), whose Photographic Institution was at 168 New Bond Street. Unlike the later photographs of Tennyson by Julia Margaret Cameron, which are distinguished by their heroic, poetical mood, Mudd's photograph conveys something of the truculence of this reclusive man, impelled to the studio by fame.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1861back to top

Current affairs

Death of Prince Albert, from typhoid fever. Queen Victoria goes into a long period of mourning, withdrawing from public duties, and becomes known by the satirical title 'Widow of Windsor'.

Art and science

Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management is published by her husband Sidney, who successfully maintained the Beeton brand after his wife's early death seven years later. The highly popular book, containing recipes and advice for housekeeping, appealed to the Victorian belief that a woman's role was managing the home.
Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company is founded, marking the start of the arts and crafts movement.


The American civil war begins after the Confederate army attacks Union forces at Fort Sumter in April. The Confederates, comprised of eleven southern states who seceded from the Union over the right to independence on issues such as abolition, are presided over by Jefferson Davis, formerly senator of Mississippi. Although the Union had early successes, the Confederates' victory at Bull Run sets the Union up for a long, four-year war.

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