Alfred, Lord Tennyson © Getty Images
Alfred, Lord Tennyson © Getty Images

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, born August 6, 1809, was the Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland for much of the reign of Queen Victoria. His grandson, Lionel Tennyson, went on to lead Hampshire and England at cricket. However, as Arunabha Sengupta demonstrates, the poet did not have much of an idea about the noble game.

When the cricketer, soldier and war hero Lionel Tennyson published his first autobiography in 1933, he named it From Verse to Worse.

Of course, this was in deference to his celebrated grandfather, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland. Growing up with this imposing figure in the family, whatever the Regency Buck did in his life it would have been bound to be worse. Even if it was captaining England.

Yet, if we change the parameters around and look at the lives through the cricketing lens, it is the great poet who finds himself on Sticky Wickets, which incidentally was the second autobiography of Lionel, published in 1950.

Tennyson the poet may have been masterly at imagery and description and an expert at rhythm and musical quality of words. He was also a great craftsman with techniques such as onomatopoeia, alliteration, and assonance. However, he knew precious little about the game.

In 1847, Tennyson published The Princess, a seriocomic narrative poem in blank verse narrative poem. It tells the story of a heroic princess who forswears the world of men and establishes a women’s university where men are forbidden to enter.

In the description of the premises, we find the following lines:

“The patient leaders of their Institute
Taught them with facts. One reared a font of stone
And drew, from butts of water on the slope,

A man with knobs and wires and vials fired
A cannon: Echo answered in her sleep
From hollow fields: and here were telescopes
For azure views; and there a group of girls”

… and then some lines later:

“Between the mimic stations; so that sport
Went hand in hand with Science; otherwhere
Pure sport; a herd of boys with clamour bowled
And stumped the wicket;”

Well, Tennyson knew that there was bowling, and something called stumping, involved in cricket. However, from the lines it seems that he did not have too much of a clue as to what the game was about.

It was his grandson’s lot to make up for this alarming deficiency in the family gene pool.