University of Virginia Library

To millions of people in the English-speaking world 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' is Alfred Tennyson's most familiar poem. Yet few are aware of the care and craftsmanship, as well as of the exigencies, that led to the creation of this classic. It is a story that has remained ambiguously and incompletely told. His son, Hallam Tennyson, has recorded that an account in The Times of the astonishing action of the Light Cavalry Brigade in the Crimean War inspired Tennyson to write the poem; but there was more than one article in The Times about what has now become that famous charge, and no one heretofore has examined The Times carefully to discern how the poet drew upon it. Furthermore, the text went through some twenty states before it reached its nearly final form. Fortunately, manuscripts, proofs, and letters that have survived in libraries and private hands both in England and the United States make it possible to trace in considerable detail the skill and tact—themselves illuminated by a major temporary lapse—with which the artist perfected his work.