Dickens Tennyon Discussion

Giants of the Victorian Era, Tennyson and Dickens take on the difficult subjects of death, poverty, and human suffering, but with occasional glimmers of hope and levity interspersed within their dark subject matters. Although not extremely close, the writers were friends and shared mutual respect for each other’s work. You can read about their friendship here (Links to an external site.).

Dickens’ greatest works are novels, and you’ve likely read, heard of, or watched an adaptation of his classic A Christmas Carol. For the sake of time, I’m only having you read a short selection, “A Walk in the Workhouse,” describing the wretched conditions of the Victorian era poor. These conditions set the stage for many of his novels, giving voice to those who were often without a voice in society. 

Similarly to Dickens, most of Tennyson’s great works are his longer works (in this case, long poems). You’ll see from his biography that he began writing extensive poetry from a very young age. He’s also known for his adaptations of classical myth and Arthurian legend (such as in “Ulysses” and Idylls of the King). Victorian medievalism was a sort of fad in which the Victorians took great pride and interest in the medieval age (even to the point of huge, elaborate reenactments of medieval jousts and other competitions (Links to an external site.)! Check out this link for a rather humorous tale of an enormous reenactment that was horribly spoiled by weather.) For today, however, we will look at just a couple of his short poems. Feel free to check out some of his medieval-inspired works in the anthology or online!


Tennyson: Biography – 1510-1511

“Tears, Idle Tears” – 1528-1529

“Crossing the Bar” – 1530

Dickens: Biography – 1585-1586

“A Walk in the Workhouse” – 1587-1590

In your post, answer the following:

1. What is the message of “Tears, Idle Tears”? How does this poem connect to Tennyson’s life? In what ways does it also describe a universal feeling or condition? (What about this poem allows it to remain popular and relevant through subsequent eras?)

2. How does Tennyson’s view of death in “Crossing the Bar” compare to those of the Romantic poets we’ve read? 

3. Have you read any of Dickens’ novels? If so, which ones, and what did you think of them? If not, which one are you most interested in reading? (Here’s a list, with summaries! (Links to an external site.) I encourage you to read your selection this summer–they are all in public domain and free as both ebooks and audiobooks online!)

4. How does Dickens’ description of the workhouse compare to the writings of Blake, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and other authors we’ve read on similar topics? 

Respond to at least two classmates using 2+ sentences, making a substantial comment adding to what they’ve said (more than just a simple agreement!)

I cannot send you my classmates work until I submit mine. (send you later in the revise part)