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Hallam Tennyson (1852–1928)

by Roma D. Hodgkinson

This article was published:

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Hallam Tennyson (1852-1928), by unknown photographer, 1900s

Hallam Tennyson (1852-1928), by unknown photographer, 1900s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23334545

Hallam Tennyson (1852-1928), author and governor-general, was born on 11 August 1852 at Twickenham, Middlesex, England, eldest son of the poet laureate Alfred (later 1st baron) Tennyson and his wife Emily Sarah, née Sellwood. Educated at Marlborough College and at Trinity College, Cambridge, he trained as a barrister at Inner Temple but never practised. In 1883 he became a councillor of the Imperial Federation League. At Westminster Abbey on 25 June 1884 he married Audrey Georgiana Florence Boyle (d.1916). Hallam acted as his father's amanuensis and companion until he succeeded to the title on Alfred's death in 1892. He had already published a children's book, Jack and the Beanstalk (London, 1886), which was followed by the two-volume Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir by His Son (London, 1897).

He had initially sought the governorship of South Australia, but hesitated when it was offered to him in January 1899: Tennyson was influenced by speculation that after Federation the post might be subordinated to that of the governor-general, or even abolished. He arrived in Adelaide in April and proved popular: the press and the people saw him as hardworking, competent, dignified and frugal. His association with premiers Charles Kingston and (Sir) Frederick Holder was less cordial: Tennyson's refusal to dissolve parliament in December caused Kingston's resignation, and he earned Holder's displeasure by his association with Chief Justice Sir Samuel Way's campaign supporting provision for unrestricted right of appeal to the Privy Council in the Constitution bill. He led the action against the diminution of gubernatorial salaries and battled against the centralizing of official correspondence through the governor-general. Tennyson also organized a boycott by governors of the Commonwealth inauguration ceremony, although they attended the opening of the Federal parliament. He promoted the dispatch of H.M.C.S. Protector to China during the Boxer rebellion (1899) and his patriotism was roused by the South African War. He helped to design the South Australian seal and flag, and provided a Tennyson medal for students.

Appointed acting governor-general on 4 July 1902 after Lord Hopetoun's unexpected resignation, Tennyson was confirmed in this position in January 1903, at his own request for one year only. If some of Barton's government suspected him of vigorous provincialism, as governor-general he appeared to become more centralist. He resigned at the end of 1903.

On his return to England he was made a privy counsellor and in 1905 refused the governorship of Madras. He edited collections of his father's poems and published Tennyson and His Friends (London, 1911). He was president of the Royal Literary Fund and the Folk Lore Society. From 1913 he was deputy governor and steward of the Isle of Wight. On 27 July 1918 he married the widowed Mary Emily Hichens, née Prinsep. He died on 2 December 1928 at Farringford, Freshwater, Isle of Wight. His wife and one of the three sons of his first marriage survived him, the two youngest having been killed in World War I. In 1905 the Adelaide beachside suburb of Tennyson was named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • L. H. Tennyson, From Verse to Worse (Lond, 1933)
  • N. Campbell (compiler), Tennyson in Lincoln, vols 1, 2 (Lincoln, 1971, 1973)
  • A. Hasluck (ed), Audrey Tennyson's Vice Regal Days (Canb, 1978)
  • C. Cunneen, Kings' Men (Syd, 1983)
  • Times (London), 3 Dec 1928
  • R. D. Hodgkinson, Lord Tennyson: The Role of the State Governors at the Time of Federation (B.A. Hons thesis, Flinders University, 1985)
  • GRG 2/19, vol 3, 11 Mar 1903 (State Records of South Australia)
  • Tennyson papers (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Roma D. Hodgkinson, 'Tennyson, Hallam (1852–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Hallam Tennyson (1852-1928), by unknown photographer, 1900s

Hallam Tennyson (1852-1928), by unknown photographer, 1900s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23334545

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Tennyson, second Baron

11 August, 1852
London, Middlesex, England


2 December, 1928 (aged 76)
Freshwater, Isle of Wight, England

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